LEAVING THE family dairy farm at Dingee and heading off to university in Bendigo has been made that little bit easier for Caitlyn Hocking.
She is one of four winners of a 2018 tertiary scholarship from the Gardiner Dairy Foundation. The $10,000 scholarship over three years will help with the costs associated with obtaining her Bachelor of Business in Accounting at La Trobe University.
“The scholarship takes the pressure off me having to work as much because it helps with the cost of living expenses and books, but most importantly it takes the pressure off Mum and Dad since things have gone pear-shaped in the dairy industry,” Ms Hocking said.
“It makes a huge difference for us all and it was really surprising to be announced a recipient.”
Ms Hocking applied for the scholarship on line, was interviewed in Melbourne and attended an acceptance lunch. “I am the first one in my family to go to university so this is new for us all,” she said.
She is living in Epsom and comes home whenever she can, mostly for her mother’s home-cooked meals and a dose of dairy farm air.
“Bendigo is definitely big enough for me,” she laughed.
Ms Hocking grew up helping on the farm and her parents, Rod and Jenni, will attest she has always been a good little worker.
“Growing up with two brothers I have always been a tomboy and I just loved helping Dad,” she said.
“I was probably a pain in the neck for him because I was always following him around but I have done that all through my life, I love the wide open space of the farm.”
“Caity has always a good help compared to her brothers, neither of them are interested in the farm,” Mr Hocking said.
Ms Hocking feels lucky to have grown up on a dairy farm.
“I love being outside and being busy. There is always something to do on the farm and you don’t have to drive anywhere either.
“I just like helping Dad and I guess it helps when you are trying to get the favourite child position,” she laughed.
The Hockings bought their dairy farm 23 years ago. They remained Murray Goulburn suppliers throughout the duration of the co-operative, becoming Saputo suppliers the day Dairy News visited.
“We don’t have any regrets staying with Murray Goulburn and I think in the long run we made the right decision for our business,” Mrs Hocking said.
The family milks 100 spring-calving cows and runs a few beef cattle. Mr Hocking said beef had helped support the dairy operation over the past few years.
“We keep all our bull calves. We do AI but we use a mop-up beef bull,” he said.
“Last calving season we kept everything. We grow the bulls out for two years and then cash them in.”
The herd is mostly Holstein, with a few crossbreeds and one lone Jersey. Mr Hocking enjoys milking cows but said the idea of milking 400 was not for him.
“I am happy to do the work myself. We dry the herd off in June and then start again in August; I like keeping things simple.”
The business is largely self-sufficient, growing its own hay and grain and feeding all the replacement stock.
“We grow vetch and oats for hay, and wheat and barley to go through the dairy. If we end up with too much grain we sell it on because we don’t have a great deal of storage,” Mr Hocking said.
The Hockings believe one of their keys to success has been keeping all their high-reliability water shares.
“I will never sell my water while I am farming,” Mr Hocking said.
He grew up in and around Dingee, west of Rochester, and can remember a time when there were nine dairy farmers on a double block. These days there are seven dairy farmers in the entire area.
“Some farms have got bigger but it would be very interesting to see what volume of milk is produced today, compared to what there used to be.”