Colcloughs a dairy family
THEY say that when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
No such thing could ever be said of the Colclough family.
Alice and Justin are one of the few; the next generation of enthusiastic dairy farmers.
They are not deterred by 4am starts, by unsustainable milk prices or by rising industry costs.
Instead, their glass – or in this case, milk pail – is half full.
“We are both from the country, but we were working in Melbourne, living that city life,” Alice said.
“Mum and Dad had the farm - we wanted to get out, and so we started talking about succession.
"The first meeting were about tailoring ideas and ultimate goals
without any pressure to make a decision.”
Succession is one of the greatest challenges any farmer will negotiate.
Who gets what, and how will it work.
For the Colcloughs, thor-oughly planning was the first step.
“A couple of months later we met with a dairy consultant cials, and we developed a 12 month strategy,” Alice said.
The family dairy runs across 475 hectares – 200 arable - in the Mitta Mitta Valley, with a reliable rainfall of around 950mm.
Two decades earlier, Alice’s parents had switched from beef to dairy, the more intensive industry better suited to the property size.
Since the initial change-over, business pressure and poor seasons had meant little room for pasture or infrastructure improvement – both big on Alice and Justin’s list.
Thinking time was on their side, Alice’s life changed dramatically when her dad suffered a stroke.
“It certainly expedited the process – six months after we first started succession talks, we were back home on the farm,” she said.
That was in 2014. Since then, there have been children, pasture changes, new land and, of course, the Murray Goulbourn milk fiasco.
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster,” Alice said.
“There’s been quite a transformation since Justin and I took over.”
Now running 230 Holstein Friesians on a 16-a-side swingover dairy, the Colcloughs can see light at the end of the tunnel.
They have moved to a 50/50 split calving in an effort to “manage poor joining rates and take advantage of winter milk prices”, have embarked on extensive pasture renovations and are genetically matching cows with desired bulls.
"Diversification is all about how you can survive the industry, or seasonal factors, that are out of your control,” Alice said.
“We are a small family opera- tion, and we’re trying to work out what we are doing day to day, what our ideal farm looks like and how we can get there.”
Planning ahead is something the Colcloughs have great store in, and they know the farm must be sustainable if they are to remain in the industry.
Some dairy farmers in the North East have gone it alone, ditching the big processors and developing their own milk brand.
Alice has not ruled out doing something similar in the future, but right now said her priorities were developing a business that would work long-term.
“We need to look 12 months ahead, three years and five years ahead – look at those bigger strategic things we need to achieve,” she said.
“I’ve got no issue with hard work, but you can’t work for free.
“So we’ve got to model our business so that it ticks all the boxes - financially, environmentally and still gives us a lifestyle; that is our priority for now.”
DAIRY IN THE FAMILY: The Colclough family run a small dairy across 475 hectares with a reliable rainfall of 950mm each year, although this year has proven drier than most. NEW GENERATION: Alice Colclough, pictured right, was the 2017 recipient of the Gardner Dairy Scholarship – she has also taken over the family dairy farm in the Mitta Mitta Valley, proving that some members of the next generation are as keen on 4am starts as the last. Alice is pictured with (from left) Jane Gehrig, Barry Sullivan and Ross Brown.