A little over a year and a half 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.
Now 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 make 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,” Olivia 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,” Olivia said. “Dairy is a different type of farming and mitigates our risk through diversification.”
After selling their beef cows, enjoying record high prices, Olivia and George purchased 10 dairy heifers and later 20 heifer calves to rear from nearby farms.
When the price crashed they had built their herd to 50 animals. It was a scary time but the potatoes were being harvested and Olivia and George 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,” Olivia said.
They had retrofitted a 50-year-old “back out” dairy that was on their property. They utilised what they could of the old shed, upgraded as required and fitted-out with a second-hand 15 a side swingover herringbone.
“It’s very modest but it does what we need,” Olivia said. “Part of our risk management strategy is to remain small, whilst developing the necessary skills to expand.”
They gradually increased their herd through natural growth and by buying excess heifers from other farmers, and will peak at 150 in 2018.
George’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,” Olivia 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, Olivia and George have embraced their new careers.
With their children Henry, 8, Isabella 5, Grace, 2 enjoying the farm lifestyle, Olivia supports the Legendairy communications initiative to raise the reputation and profile of the dairy industry.
“The industry is really supportive,” Olivia 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,” Olivia said.
Image: Olivia Lineham
This story was first published in Leading Agriculture Magazine – Issue 26.