September 2012

Green hills against blue skies, Friesian cows peacefully grazing, native birds calling and property owners taking a break. Yes, it sounds idyllic. The day that WOFWG members visited the MacKay’s dairy property ‘Arnum’ at Poowong East was a temporary reprieve in a spell of wild, wet weather. The aims of the visit included hearing the MacKay’s farming philosophy, seeing this approach in practice and observing the principles of LandCare and wildlife protection in situ. For our members it was a most satisfying experience.

‘Balance’ and ‘care’ appear among the corner posts of farm management on this 500 acre enterprise. The Mackays are located amidst the steep and challenging hills of the Poowong area, with its high rainfall and testing terrain.

The dairy herd consists of 240 Friesian/Holsteins, purpose bred as durable not necessarily volume milkers. Genetic selection for strong legs and good feet is essential due to the hills. Heifers are crossed with lowline bulls and offspring subsequently marketed as pre-packed meat. Around the dairy, a 28 unit herringbone, there are extensive sealed areas, the most significant being a large under-cover feed pad. What a wise investment for cows and humans when wet days can be the norm. The concrete pad also contributes to the preservation of pasture and to protection of new born calves, sheltered from fox predation.

The MacKays have farmed ‘Arnum’ for over 40 years and are working to their original aim in their buying the property in the early 1970s. Peter explained that they would like to leave the farm as a better place for animals, people and the environment. With the thought put into managing and recycling cattle effluent, soil erosion, stream purity and vegetation, they are on track. WOFWG members were impressed with the evident improvements made over the decades to this challenging dairy farm.

WOFWG’s October activity is a fascinating visit to Mal Stewart’s Wine Services (consultancy and bottling) at both Drouin & Yarragon.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate. For more details contact secretary, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the 2012 monthly program.

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.