Receiving his signed copy of the book, The Hico Story, is John Austin of Mirboo North with the book’s author Ann Andrew and her husband Alan at the book launch last week. m020817

THE history of herd improvement and artificial breeding in the dairy industry might not sound like the subject for a thrilling page-turner but if you thought it was all about lab results, performance tables, test samples and semen straws… think again.
A new book, commissioned by the Herd Improvement Co-operative Australia (Hico), and penned by local historian, Ann Andrew of Sale, is anything but a dry tome about numbers and technological improvement.
‘The Hico Story’, which was launched at the Korumburra Library last Wednesday, February 15, is mostly about people with incredible vision and energy, who worked hard together to make the dairy industry in Victoria the modern, powerhouse that it is today.
And down here in South Gippsland, our local dairy farmers and herd testers, have a right to feel proud of the contribution they made to raising the breed and production standards of our dairy cattle to world-leading levels.
It’s all in there.
The formation of Hico in 2008 brought together the major dairying regions of Maffra, South Gippsland and Colac into one herd improvement co-operative, big enough to devel op a more comprehensive range of services to its members, as well as undertake more research and development, in what has become a highly technological, skill-based industry.
But the successes of today were built on the efforts of our innovative pioneer dairy farmers and outstanding industry leaders, and this book goes right back to tell the story of the early days of the dairy industry in the three regions, identifying the individuals who made us what we are today.
And this book is about acknowledging their contribution in an interesting and engaging manner.
Author Ann Andrew admits to being fascinated and in awe of what she found.
“I’ve been involved in writing local histories since 1991, when as the hospital librarian at Sale, I started to write the history of the old hospital before it was pulled down,” Mrs Andrew said.
“I get a buzz out of doing local histories but I didn’t really know where to start with the research until I went out and met the people who were involved in it.”
From the original farmers who cleared the land, to the soldier settlers and early herd testers on horseback, including all the small herd improvement groups across the region; they’re all mentioned in the book.
Plus there are dozens of pictures, cuttings and documents that only serve to draw the readers’ attention to the engaging narrative.
The book is a must read for anyone who ever served on a herd improvement committee or worked as an administrator or technician.
But, beyond that, it opens a window into the incredible history of the dairy industry in Victoria, especially in the difficult to farm, difficult to access hilly and coastal areas of Gippsland and the south west.
Herd testing, which was introduced in the late 19th century provided the farmer with a measure of the production of their cows, by which it was possible to select their best producers for breeding.
In the initial stages, collecting milk samples, and bringing sloshing milk containers back for analysis was a fraught exercise, especially across the rolling hills of South Gippsland but it was work that had to be done and ultimately the practice drove improvement, not only in the cattle, but also in the herd testing and herd improvement industry.
See Hico’s advert this week for how to get your copy of this interesting and entertaining new book about the dairy industry and the co-operative efforts made to improve it, from which all dairy farmers have benefitted.