I used to be a quiet achiever in the world of pharmacy. Today I have a fairly high profile in the world of Australian agriculture. I make a lot of noise and fight what I believe is the good fight to get a fair return for our farmers. I am not always the most popular person in the room and it’s not easy. I have learnt the hard way it’s a journey ( a long journey) It’s not how much noise you make it’s how you make the noise and who you bring with you along the way that counts
For 25 years of my life I was a community pharmacist working in the main to help support the family dairying farming business. Pharmacy is a rewarding profession even when you were like me quietly putting labels on bottles, researching drug interactions, advising how best to treat burns and talking to customers. Pharmacists have the knowledge and the compassion to guide people through the quagmire and frustration that can be the world of hospitals, multiple medications and the desire to get the best health outcomes for sick people who often see you as their first port of call
It’s a very different world to agriculture; where we are totally overwhelmed with quiet achievers and the world is leaving us behind. The majority of pharmacists can be quiet achievers because there are some very smart people in the world of pharmacy who know how important it is if you are going to be heard in Macquarie St or Canberra you need to be articulate, know that politics is the art of the possible and you need to be a cohesive, collaborative, powerful group of networkers. You need to be loud and proud. This is the reason that the Pharmacy Guild is one most powerful lobby groups in this country
There are a lot of smart people in agriculture and that is where the comparison stops and this is what I want to change. I want the people in the offices in the hallowed halls to tremble and listen and act when the farmer lobbyists go to meet the decision and policy makers
I know there are people in agriculture who could do it better than me and chose not to. So I am on a steep learning curve and constantly seeking out people I can learn from. Figuring out how to ask the right questions and when I get the right answers who are the people to take them to who will actually do something with them. Those people are very short on the ground in the world of dairy. Every day I am reminded just how naive so many of our dairy farmers are. We pay levies and we just expect that the people in charge of our levies can read our minds and this tends to lead to a one size fits all R&D mentality that apparently works in every region no matter what your farming system, topography, soil types et all and decision making that is not always in the best interests of the majority. It also means no-one is listening to us in Macquarie St or Canberra and can’t say I blame them.
So I love to talk to people from other industries, hear what they are doing and always wondering why we don’t do that in dairy. Looking at the diversity of people I met at Crookwell Show. See post here.
Take cattle farmer Ken Wheelwright for example.
Ken and his family realised long ago that farming today is not about working longer hours it’s about being smarter. So after talking to holistic educator Bruce Ward, Ken contacted the KLR Marketing team and became part of their Mastermind Group.
The KLR Mastermind Group is the support network for KLR Marketing. The greatest benefits of being part of this network, Ken believes is that you have access to the vital tools that enable you to profit from your livestock, in any market and he certainly gave me plenty of successful examples. Imagine the value of talking to people who can share their experiences like recognising the recent rain has meant there has been a rapid growth of grass and the cattle market is very buoyant but looking at the medium term weather forecast shows there are some extreme heat events coming which are going to burn that grass off pretty fast and it might be very smart to de-stock by 90% and take advantage of the current high cattle prices. If there is a similar range of services delivered on-line and offline, which include a unique market report like the KLR 30 Second Market report, profit calculators, teleconferences as well as mentoring days in regional areas offering in the world of dairy I have never seen it
Talking to Dr Rod Hoare reminded me how important it is to learn from past knowledge.
Rod is an equine and cattle vet with extensive experience working for the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI). Now Chief ground steward at the Crookwell Show and farmer Rod and his partner Helena Warren run a very interesting and diverse farming operation at Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys. Rod is also the 2012 Australian Biosecurity Farmer of the Year
I learnt a lot about a lot things from Rod as we drove around Crookwell Show in his little golf buggy.
There are many farmers in the dairy industry that could benefit from listening to Rod talk about the protocols and systems that were in place to ‘keep the bastards honest’ in the on farm milk quality testing process when he was at the DPI. Any farmer who has moved from one milk processor to another who uses a different lab knows how huge the variation in milk quality lab test results can be and how costly that can be. For us one year that was $30K. You can do a lot on farm with $30K. You could employ some-one for half a year. Imagine how much infrastructure repairs and maintenance you could do let alone how many trees and fencing you could do. Build a shade shelter for your cows on hot days, the holiday you could go on, let alone all the staff that didn’t get their milk quality bonus. It wasn’t much fun for them either. There is a small dedicated group of people out there trying to fix this problem on behalf of farmers but getting nowhere because for some reason “the bastards” are happy with the system. Well Rod might just have the answer; it certainly worked in his day.
On our trip to the cattle sheds Rod introduced me to 84 year old Ernie Stevenson. Ernie was a very early and influential member of the Murray Grey Society. A man with a good eye for cattle but admits he is fairly critical which often didn’t make him the most popular judge
In September 2009 Mick and Fiona established Woolaringa Meats as a retail butcher shop, located at 112 Kinghorne Street, Goulburn. They provide free range beef from their own farm and purchase cattle from local farmers like Rod Hoare that suit their specifications. According to Rod, Mick Battiste does all his own butchering and promotion of beef. Mick works on the basis that (like a pharmacist) by taking time to share your knowledge and skills you can give people a better eating experience
The things like we farmers kno, that you make great casseroles with cheap chuck steak not prime costly rump steak
Well done Mick and Fiona running great events like Super Square Sunday