THE GOULDING family has been working the land outside of Cohuna for more than 100 years.
Greg Goulding is the fourth generation of his family to run the farm, which has grown to encompass more than 1000 ha and 550 milking cows.
He is in the process of a succession plan which will see him take over the running of the farm from his father and uncle — he says until he turns 60, in 10 years’ time, and then he is out of there.
“I have worked hard over the years but I won’t be spending my life on the farm. By the time I turn 60 I hope to be retired and enjoying a life away from the dairy industry,” Mr Goulding said.
“Our focus is on consolidating the business and reducing debt, no more expansion is on the cards. I have four sons and none of them are interested in the farm — I wouldn’t want them to come home unless it changes drastically anyway, it’s just too stressful.”
The family was one of the former suppliers loyal to milk processor Murray Goulburn, supplying the co-operative for 66 years.
“I now get prices from every processor,” Mr Goulding said.
“Our business isn’t loyal to anybody, anymore and I am happy to look right across the board.
“Everyone is looking for milk and I think the factories are going to have to work hard to get their milk in the future.”
The business is currently supplying Fonterra and Mr Goulding is looking to add some autumn calvers to the predominately spring-calving herd to produce a flatter milk curve.
“This spring, herd numbers will be up around 600. We will start to cull a few of the spring-calving herd and bring our autumn herd numbers up to flatten out our milk supply.”
This autumn he did buy 40 Holstein cows to increase autumn herd numbers but the majority of the herd is Aussie Red.
The family started with the Reds about 20 years ago.
“I love their health traits and their fertility is brilliant. For a big herd we are running at 10 per cent empties at the moment and I am pretty happy with that,” Mr Goulding said.
“We don’t have much of a mastitis problem — their resistance is pretty good and we haven’t had a mastitis case for at least a month.
“They are also easy calving. I check the cows after milking but that’s about it, they seem to end up spitting out their calves.
“They are just a robust animal very suited to our conditions. The walking on our place soon sorts the cows out here. It is 6 km to the furthest paddock and we have found over the years that the big cows can’t really handle it.”
The dry conditions over autumn have left Mr Goulding feeling uneasy about the season ahead in terms of fodder production.
“It’s a struggle to get feed growing at the moment. The cows are getting a small pick out of the paddock and they are on three mixes a day, one at lunch time and two after milking which takes up hours of manpower.”
He is ploughing through the silage pits.
“We had seven bunkers — two from spring and five from the season before but the way we are going there might not be any left this year.”
Mr Goulding said the spring-calving herd normally spend their dry period on the run-off block out near Mt Hope. This year the grass has struck but lack of rain this season has meant there is no feed and there may not be any point in sending the dry cows out there at all.
“If we don’t get any rain in the next few weeks I don’t know what will happen. Quality hay is starting to get hard to find and it is also pretty expensive.”
As the years go by, Mr Goulding said life on the farm seemed to get busier and busier.
In a bid to reduce some of the workload, he is looking to introduce some additional permanent pasture plantings to the milking platform.
“I am looking at sowing some lucerne because I am sick and tired of ripping up paddocks and the cost of that now is insane. We do have some permanent pasture already but it is predominately annuals.”
The paddocks the furthest from the dairy are always the first to be dried-off and are usually where the corn is sown.
“We are self-sufficient for silage but we always buy in quality hay like vetch,” Mr Goulding said.
Water is a huge issue for every northern Victorian dairy farmer and the Gouldings do use the temporary water market to purchase a couple of hundred megalitres each year.
“A few months ago I was feeling very uneasy about the year ahead, particularly when they were talking the milk price down,” Mr Goulding said.
“The last month or so it looks a little bit more positive and I do feel a bit more confident then I was.”