Family change system and make farming fun again
FOCUS ON FARMING
Charlotte and Russell Heald
It is four years since we reached a point in our farming career where we knew something had to change. Following a low milk payout, financial pressure, rising input costs, feeling disheartened with the dairy industry and some confronting personal health issues we knew we had to consider a new approach. At that time we had three young children, we were milking 400 cows in an equity partnership with family, an opportunity we felt fortunate to have. We made the decision to start milking once a day (OAD) for the full season. While we knew this would have a financial impact due to the reduced milk production, we felt it was a step forward in terms of our wellbeing, and the wellbeing of our cows. It felt like a way to create some kind of work/life balance and to start reducing stress in several areas of our business. Our interest in our own health and wellbeing had grown as a result of some personal health issues. We had started to learn more and more about nutrition and holistic health. We developed an appreciation for high quality nutrient dense foods and started to see the benefits to the health of our family by making some changes to the foods we regularly ate. Charlotte started training as a holistic health coach, further supporting our growing knowledge of health and wellbeing. It wasn’t long before we felt a mis-alignment between how we were managing our own human health and nutrition, compared to that of our cows. We started to investigate more biological farming practices. We were connected with Greg Barclay from Soil Connections through a local farmer who was also embracing biological farming practices and transitioning their dairy farm to organics. Greg’s vast knowledge of soil biology and holistic farming practices, along with how we had seen him support other farmers to achieve inspired us to begin the regenerative farming journey that we continue on today. It felt like a leap of faith, though it was one we felt held more hope and positivity for our future in dairying. Regenerative farming for us means building and nurturing soil biology, planting diverse pasture mixes, utilising a longer grazing rotation. Ultimately, working with nature to build our soil carbon levels and get our plants cycling carbon. Healthy soils create strong and healthy plants that nourish our cows so they can produce high quality milk.