ABOUT 18 months ago, Gippsland potato farmers Olivia and George Lineham took 10 cows and a 50-year-old dairy and started to branch out into a new farming venture. Today, with 110 cows and more on the way, they’re relishing being part of the dairy industry. Their farm at Cora Lynn near Pakenham is 70 per cent potatoes and 30 per cent dairy and the mix gives the Linehams a sense of security as they ﬁnd their way as a new generation of Legendairy farmers.
“We were ﬂooded in 2011 which made us realise how vulnerable we were by relying on one source of income,” Mrs Lineham said.
They had some beef cattle but not enough to survive on, and another horticulture industry presented a similar risk to potatoes.
“If you plant potatoes and they all die you don’t have anything to sell,” Mrs Lineham said.
“Dairy is a diﬀerent type of farming and mitigates our risk through diversiﬁcation.”
After selling their beef cows and enjoying record high prices, the Linehams bought 10 dairy heifers and later 20 heifer calves to rear from nearby farms. When the milk price crashed they had built their herd to 50 animals. It was a scary time but the potatoes were being harvested and they persisted with dairy.
“It was an unsure time for everybody, we were still ﬁnding our feet in the industry and we weren’t ready to give up just yet,” Mrs Lineham said.
They had retroﬁtted a 50-year-old ‘back out’ dairy on their property. They used what they could of the old shed, upgraded as required and ﬁ tted it out with a second-hand, 15-a-side swingover herringbone.
“It’s very modest but it does what we need. Part of our risk management strategy is to remain small, whilst developing the necessary skills to expand,” Mrs Lineham said.
They gradually increased their herd through natural growth and by buying excess heifers from other farmers, and will peak at 150 next year. Mr Lineham’s family has some long-gone dairy farming history but the couple essentially started from scratch in the new enterprise.
“George has been farming his whole life and for me it’s been the past 15 years, but going into dairy was good because it was something we could learn together,” Mrs Lineham said.
“We get to use our brains in a diﬀerent way to the horticultural production.”
With “bloody good land” ideal for both horticulture and dairying, the Linehams have embraced their new careers. With their children Henry, 8, Isabella, 5, and Grace, 2, enjoying the farm lifestyle,
Mrs Lineham supports the Legendairy communications initiative to raise the reputation and proﬁle of the dairy industry.
“The industry is really supportive,” she said.
“It’s a lovely industry because everyone works together and people are really open with suggesting ways to improve your farming. There is so much quality information available to new dairy farmers.
“We put our hands up for every Dairy Australia extension program oﬀered through GippsDairy and I’ve joined the West Gippsland branch of Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network, which is a great environment with great mentors.”
For more Legendairy stories, go to: legendairy.com.au