Something I can talk about now that it has rained
It has been quite a few months since I have written a blog, and this topic is one I have thought of often however never been in a good enough place to put it down onto paper.
This season has been tough, the toughest yet that I have encountered since running the family farm. At the start of September 2015 I started feeding hay. We weaned all of our calves early and put them onto our small amount of pasture and supplemented them with quality hay. At that stage I believed I would feed them until February. Or until it rained.
I did the first, however the latter never happened. For 262 days I have fed hay to our cows and calves, every day.
We normally do not need to feed out hay, and we cut a small amount from our own farm to help if it gets seriously cold for a few days in winter, or if cattle are yarded for any reason and need hay. As the season has been so tough we have been unable to grow our own hay and have to buy all of our hay in. In November 2015 I was paying $200 per ton of hay. By April 2016 it was at $375 and rising. To give some indication we are feeding between 1 - 2 tons of hay every day. Every day for 262 days.
This has well and truly taken a toll on me. I am well aquatinted with the black dog, for one period in my life he stayed a lot longer than the rest. So at least depression is something I am aware of, and recognise when its coming for a visit. However this has slowly and steadily chipped away at me. I am one of the lucky ones though, I have a husband who has a "real job," and works off farm. However with a young family I often call on my husband to help me and then his business and our main potential of income suffers more.
I have not felt able to write about this as I hoped I would when I got out of it, and I optimistically (foolishly?) kept thinking that was a few weeks or months away. Once winter has finally set in I have had to face up that I will feed hay until spring arrives with some warmth and growth.
Two months ago I was forced to sell cows and calves for the first time since my husband and I started running the farm. This was heartbreaking as these are the genetics we have built on for 9 years, and those that my grandfather had built on for 50 years prior. Earlier in the year I sold most of our ewes as we just couldn't manage to keep feeding them with the cold months looming.
I am gravely concerned about he future of agriculture in our country, and the current lack of concern for farmers and people working in agriculture. I look at what has happened recently to our dairy industry with dismay. I try and imagine if a similar thing had happened to our school teachers, nurses, fireman etc.. and I think there would be outcry! They would protest and strike and things would change.
For some reason farmers are not able to do this. They cannot simple stop caring for their animals, and they can then somehow be forced to produce a product that sells for less than what it costs to produce it. what madness.
Can you imagine telling a train driver that for the next time period he had to pay a bit to his boss instead of receiving a wage??
Mental health is being addressed more widely than it used too, however there is still a huge stigma associated with it. Most farmers I know are incredibly proud of what they do. Mental illness is really not something that anyone has time for in their day. I fear agriculture has a bumpy road ahead. Not many young people are wanting to get into farming , I am not sure if I would want my children to farm... I think the general advice from many farmers is "get a real job so that you can keep farming as a hobby."
A few times when I have felt particularly low I have received a nice email from a customer thanking us for what we do. It has gone a very long way and validated what I am doing, and what I hope to achieve. I think it is incredibly important to support small business, support your friends. If your friend is starting a small business, buy from them! Shop in your town, at your local shops get away from the big franchises and shopping centres. Everyone plays their part with the daily choices they make.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us and our little business. We really appreciate it.