TIM and Amanda Calder are Legendairy farmers with a Legendairy farm located in Meeniyan, the 2015 Legendairy Capital of Gippsland.
The family own the iconic paddocks that travellers on the South Gippsland Highway see as they cross the Tarwin River.
The land is regularly flooded, turning the low-lying areas of the farm into a picturesque ‘Lake Meeniyan’ that eventually drains away into the Tarwin River. After heavy rainfall, two branches of the river – from as far afield as the Strzelecki Ranges – bottleneck at the bridge, forcing water to back-up onto the paddocks until it can make its way downstream.
While casual observers would imagine it’s a curse, the river silt and moist soil can help grow feed for the Calders’ cows until well into the dry summer months.
The rest of the 122-hectare property is a productive dairy farm – rain, hail or shine. Tim and Amanda have turned a run-down property into a well-run dairy business that milks 250 stud Holsteins.
It’s taken 15 years of hard work, but the Calders finally have the herd and infrastructure they need to take the next step in their business.
“Every year you chip away a bit more and 15 years later you have a dairy and laneways and paddocks,” Amanda said.
For Tim, building up his herd size and quality has been a particularly satisfying part of the journey.
Today, together with Tim’s parents, they run Calderlea Holstein Stud, which has an enviable reputation for breeding bulls that produce top quality cows.
“When I started out I had 60 cows that I bought from Maffra in the middle of a drought for $600 each and we got 12 mature cows from Mum and Dad,” he said.
Tim’s parents are Les and Louise, who farm in a business partnership with Tim and Amanda, but run a separate herd and milk them in their own dairy on a similar sized property next door. Tim is grateful for the assistance and advice he’s received from his parents, but was also keen to gain a broader education away from the family farm.
“I have an agricultural science degree which opened my eyes to different ways of thinking,” he said.
“You don’t just look at what your parents did and think that’s the best way to do it. A science degree teaches you analytical thinking.”
With two young children – Lloyd, two, and James, six months – the couple is also analysing the pros and cons of business growth versus family happiness. Amanda, who has a business degree and will shortly return to work as a manager at Rabobank, said the dairy lifestyle can be great for raising a family.
“I was talking with some mums at Mothers Group the other day and they were quite envious because Tim gets to come in most days and have breakfast with us,” she said.
Amanda, who sees the economics of dairy farming through her work, said the impact of the industry on the local area should not be underestimated.
“You see the whole service provider side of things and how much money flows through the community from it,” she said.
It’s a sentiment backed up by Tim, who said the money that washes through the dairy industry impacts on every aspect of life in Gippsland.
“Not everyone around here is involved in the dairy industry itself, but you see the money that flows from dairy and feeds back into the district.”
Turning flood into fodder