Phil and Symone Vines started their farm ownership dream eight years ago with Hope and a lot of ambition.
That was when Phil and Symone purchased their first cow – appropriately named Hope. Now they own nearly 800 cows, are purchasing their own 117-hectare farm and are leasing another at Simpson in south-west Victoria.
“We called her Hope because we hoped she wasn’t going to be the only one,” Symone said.
“It’s nice to be able to show it’s achievable – that you can go out on your own and start from scratch and do this.”
They milk Friesian cows on a new robotic dairy on their farm and Jerseys on the leased farm.
Both Symone and Phil come from dairying backgrounds but didn’t have any family help to set up their flourishing business.
“We’d always wanted to go out and do our own thing so when an opportunity came up to buy cows then later a farm we thought we’d go for it,” Symone said.
Needing to replace the 50-year-old herringbone dairy, the Vines decided to look at a robotic system and travelled to inspect examples in Gippsland.
“Phil fell in love the first minute he walked in,” Symone said.
“The cows were the boss; they ran the system and weren’t stressed at all, and Phil said these are the type of cows I want.
“I was more of an office girl but I find myself in the dairy every day now,” she said.
“My interest has grown so much. I love the fact the cows walk themselves up to be milked and they’re so calm.”
With four children aged between 1-17, the Murray Goulburn next generation suppliers have coped through a tough time in the industry and were recent finalists for the Young Farm Leader, the Employer and the Farm Manager awards in the 2017 Great South West Dairy Awards.
“The last 12 months have been difficult,” Symone admitted.
“When the price dropped, we were so busy getting the robotic dairy ready we didn’t want to make any knee-jerk reactions. We extended the overdraft, kept our cow numbers and put in a massive harvest effort.”
With the only robotic dairy in the region, Phil and Symone are keen to help others interested in the technology and regularly host industry and school groups, and even a Men’s Shed team.
“There’s a huge divide between country and city and we need to show people what we do and where their food comes from,” he said.
This story was first published in Leading Agriculture Issue 23.
Image: Phil and Symone Vines. Image by Robert White, Devondaler