A day in the life of a farmer-Young’s Bill and Rhonda Daly

Tuesday, November 21 is National Agriculture Day, a celebration of Australian agriculture. To acknowledge those that feed and clothe us, the Young Witness talked to local farmers Bill and Rhonda Daly about a typical day in their life.

Milgadara Young is a fourth generation mixed farm. Rhonda Daly said the decision to “not put all our eggs in one basket and not to put all our baskets on one train” was primarily one born out of necessity in today’s fickle market.

“Basically, we are a mixed farm to spread the risk of downturns in cropping, cattle, prime lambs or wool,” she said. 

“It is not common that all enterprises perform well in any one year, but with mixed farming, one enterprise often carries another.  At the moment livestock and wool seem to be more reliable then cropping due to the altered weather patterns caused by climate change.”

A day on Milgadara Young starts in the quiet of the previous evening to plan the activities for the following day according to Mrs Daly.

“The alarm sounds at 6am and our morning routine of listening to the news and weather while eating a good healthy, hearty breakfast is one we cherish,” she said.

”We’ve been given an an extra challenge recently as our workman has just resigned just before harvest, crutching, drenching and weaning lambs, not to mention the regular jobs such as checking and turning compost and feeding livestock. This is one of the big concerns in the country, finding suitable farmhands willing to do the ‘dirty work’.”

Bill has organised for Rhonda this morning to weigh Angus steers with their Agent.  Rhonda, along with Isabel and Molly, two of their granddaughters living on Milgadara, help to get the cattle to the cattle yards before school.

They weigh around 540kgs so now is the time to determine where the best market and price will come from. 

“These steers have been doing exceedingly well putting on around 1.8kg per day,”  Mrs Daly said.  “Due to the cattle being grass fed on nutritious pastures grown on living soils we should get great a premium for their meat.”

“A regular job every morning is to test the compost windrows for temperature, carbon dioxide and moisture to determine if they need turning with the compost turner,” Mrs Daly said.

“Bill makes this decision and proceeds to turn the compost and recover the windrows.  This compost is used on the farm as a soil building amendment and to add microbiology back into the soil. 

“About sixteen years ago we discovered that conventional farming practices were degrading our soils and we turned to a more sustainable way of farming.  Now we are excited that we know that our soils are sequestering atmospheric carbon and mitigating climate change.”

Morning tea is always a part of the day, a cuppa and biscuit before heading off to bring a mob of ewes and lambs in for crutching tomorrow. 

“Crutching at this time of the year helps alleviate fly strike if we receive any summer rains,” Mrs Daly said. 

“The lambs are now six months old and due to be weaned off their mothers.  At this time it is advisable to drench the lambs before putting on to a fresh pasture.

“Due to a lack of labour, my daughter Liz and her six-month-old little boy Will help Bill draft the ewes and lambs and shed them for crutching tomorrow morning.  Farming is very much a family business, and everyone is called on to help.”

With harvest going to be early this year time is spent today with Bill checking over the header and other equipment to start harvesting in about ten days’ time.   

“The days end at sunset, feeling very weary and knowing that tomorrow is going to look much like today,” Mrs Daly said. 

“It is such an honour to work as a farmer knowing that we produce the food to feed the nation and take care of our environment for the next generation.” 

For more information about National Agriculture Day and local events go towww.agday.org.au

Essential farm facts 

  • Each year, on average each Australian farmer feeds 600 people.
  • Agriculture powers 1.6 million Australian jobs.
  • Australian farmers manage 48 per cent of the nation’s landmass.
  • In the past decade, our primary industries have led the nation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • There are 85,681 Australian agricultural businesses that have an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO) of $40,000 or greater.
  • Cattle, wheat and whole milk are our top three commodities by value.

These facts and many more are included in the National Farmers Federation’s (NFF) Food, Fibre & Forestry Facts: A Summary of Australia’s Agriculture Sector publication released today.

NFF President Fiona Simson said the updated popular reference document was the perfect scene-setter for Tuesday’s National Agriculture Day.

“Our farm sector punches way above its weight in its contribution to the economy, our society and the environment," Ms Simson said. 

“National Agriculture Day on Tuesday, November 21 is the perfect opportunity for ALL Australians to celebrate this contribution.”

Ms Simson said Food, Fibre and Forestry Facts, last updated in 2014, was the NFF’s most referenced resource, cited by school students, journalists, policy makers and farmers alike.

“The authoritative publication is designed as a fast reference to top-of-mind national and state-by-state farm facts.

“Facts like how many farmers are there in Australia, how much land do they farm, what is agriculture worth to our nation’s economy and how are farmers looking after the environment.”

Food, Fibre and Forestry Facts references data from leading authorities such as the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR).

The reference also drills down to specific figures on Australia’s leading agricultural commodities, including beef; sheep, wool, grains, cotton, dairy, pork, rice, dried fruit, sugar and forestry.

“Food, Fibre & Forestry Facts outlines, in numbers, why all Australians, city and bush-based, young and old, can feel proud of our great farm sector and the many industries that support it,” Ms Simson said.

“On November 21, I urge everyone from Broome to Bordertown, Bundaberg to Bondi, and Bourke to Brunswick to join us with in celebrating our great agriculture industry.”

Food, Fibre & Forestry Facts: A Summary of Australia’s Agriculture Sector can be downloaded here.

Fast facts about Australian agriculture 

  • More than 99% of Australia’s agricultural businesses are Australian owned.
  • Out of the $58.1 billion worth of food and fibre Australian farmers produced in 2015-16 77 per cent ($44.8 billion) was exported. 
  • 6.8 million hectares of agricultural land has been set aside by Australian farmers for conservation and protection purposes.
  • In 2016–17 Australian farmers invested $334 million in research and development through the Rural Research and Development Corporations. This is over and above the $325 million co-contribution made through the  Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
  • Australian farmers are among the most self-sufficient in the world, with government support for Australian farms representing just 1% of farming income. By comparison, in Norway it is 62%, Korea 49%, China 21%, European Union 19% and United States 9%.
This story A day in the life of a farmer-Young’s Bill and Rhonda Daly first appeared on The Young Witness.