A LEGEND of the South Gippsland dairy industry, John Mulvany, has hung up his boots, beanie, whiteboard, laptop or whatever it is a farm consultant hangs up after almost 40 years in the business.
A veteran of several major catastrophes in the sector, but thankfully, plenty of good times as well, he looks back on his time at McMillan in Leongatha, at Murray Goulburn in field services and out on his own in the business he founded, OnFarm Consulting, with considerable fondness.
And if there’s one thing that has motivated him throughout, not to mention standing in awe of what they do, it’s the dairy farmers themselves, especially the many successful ones who have the ability to process complex information into good decision making, while working hard to reach defined goals.
“And they grasp all those variables pretty quickly as well.”
But, the tough question first.
“Would you, with all you know now about being a dairy farmer, have been a dairy farmer yourself?”
“I’ve put a fair bit of thought into that and this is what I would say:
“The dairy industry has been and will continue to be an industry in which people can grow significant wealth, as long as the operators have the skills and follow the principles of profitable dairy farming, and not participate in the fairy floss, ego-driven business model.
“There are some dairy farmers who are incredibly good at creating profit. They’re not chest beaters but they have been able to grow wealth without being swept up in the glory side of the industry.
“But it’s an industry of contradiction too.
“You’re not allowed to say that you’ve been successful, or someone will want to chop you down.
“But me? I think I’ve answered that. You’ve got to have the skillset and I’m extremely comfortable with what I’ve done. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
John worked with a mate for a few years on a dairy farm before deciding he wanted to do ag science at Melbourne University. He did a DipEd as well and went out to work as a science, biology and ag science teacher at Mentone Grammar School.
A few years there led to a key role at the fledgling McMillan Campus in Leongatha, as a rural education officer, where he added his skills and energy to what many still look back on as the halcyon days of farmer education in this area.
After six or seven years there, he was head-hunted by Murray Goulburn to lead their field services team, again for another seven or eight years before going out on his own.
“I think that’s about 37 years, which leads me on to something else I’ve been doing for the past four or five years, working with dairy farmers towards the end of their careers, helping them to decide when they have enough and when they should start enjoying it.”
With his experience on the processing side, before going into consulting, John was often a go-between for the processors and the farmers, but the MG/Fonterra catastrophe aside, he maintains communication between the factories and the farmers was always fairly good.
“They got a good indication of the income they could expect from July 1 onwards, with step-ups along the way, which is more than you get in most other sectors.”
And what’s he going to do in retirement?
“We’re living at Koonwarra and building at Inverloch but other than that, I’m doing some mentoring with some other farm consultants.
“But, it’s a business you’ve got to be 100 per cent committed to if you want to be across the issues and in a position to help consider all the options.”