Koonwarra dairy farmer Chris Hughes at the Yanakie Focus Farm with GippsDairy’s Karen Romano.

Landmark’s Stuart McNaughton with Focus Farmer Alex Moon and his daughter Ellen.

Visiting Gundowring farmer Brendan Glass with Yanakie’s Paul Harrington and Paul Battersby from Gibsons Ground Spread.

IT WOULD be fair to say that the Moon family’s first few months as Focus Farmers have been as good as it gets.
Jared, who is in a business partnership with wife Melissa and his parents Alex and Tricia, is about to cut November silage on their Yanakie farm for the first time in memory.
To have so much feed on hand is a huge bonus when imported fodder is at such high prices.
While the weather can take credit for the extra cut of silage, Jared said the Focus Farm experience has already improved his all-round pasture management.
“I’ve never been someone who worried about topping, but this year I have done it, which is a first for me,” he said during their first Focus Farm open day on Wednesday.
“It’s made a big difference in grass quality. The group has been encouraging me to focus on that a lot more, which is one of our goals, so that has been good.”
The Focus Farm program is jointly supported by GippsDairy and Dairy Australia. The program gives farmers and agribusiness professionals the opportunity to participate in the decision-making processes of a dairy farm business.
Each Focus Farm provides an ongoing demonstration of the value of goal setting within a dairy business and the processes required to achieve these goals.
For the Moons, the support group has already made a difference to how they look at their farm business and develop the knowledge and skills that modern dairy farmers need.
“Dad was out of dairy farming for about 12 years while he ran the bus business, and now he’s back into it again, he has found the Focus Farm really good for catching up with the new ways of doing things,” Jared said.
“Dad’s always been a very good farmer – even in the 1990s, his cows would do 480 to 500 kilos – so there was nothing wrong with the way he used to farm. But as someone said, if you are not moving forward in this industry, you are going backwards.
“Matt Hall was explaining cost creep, where you might be running the same business, but costs go up and suddenly you’re not making a margin because you haven’t kept up with the latest grass varieties or genetics or something else. That’s something the Focus Farm has made me conscious of.”
GippsDairy regional extension officer Donna Gibson, who co-facilitates the Focus Farm with consultant Matt Hall, said the Moons and their Support Group have gelled quickly and are already helping change the farm business for the better.
“The Moons have come into the Focus Farm with a plan of where they want to end up, but they are pragmatic about it and have contingencies in place if things don’t go to plan,” she said.
“The Support Group has been fantastic, really vocal and positive. They will challenge and ask questions of why the Moons are wanting to head in a certain direction, which is what Focus Farms are all about – asking the question about why are we doing things a certain way.”