Country News

Tragowel dairy farmers diversify into a farm stay

By Sophie Baldwin

Dairying has been a tough gig over the past few years.

Tragowel dairy farmers Catherine and Mick Shepard met that challenge head-on by opening a farm stay — and began to live out one of their long-held dreams.

The Shepards are passionate about bridging the gap between country and city and while their farm stay, Shepo's Whey, has only been in operation for a couple of months, they have already begun sharing their farming life with other families.

"I have wanted to start a farm stay forever and Mick should have been a tourist guide in real life, so I think this is a perfect fit for us," Mrs Shepard said.

It has cost the couple about $50,000 to set up the stay, which they funded through the sale of their Murray Goulburn shares.

The stay includes four separate bedrooms with airconditioner and ensuite bathrooms, cooking facilities and a fire pit.

The farm stay Shepo's Whey.

The last group of people to stay were a South African family who were treated to the sight of cows calving as they sat around the fire.

"They absolutely loved the peace and quite and all the open space," Mrs Shepard said.

"They were amazed by what we had to offer and amazed to be able to sit around a fire and watch calves being born." 

The couple offers a 'Mick Dundee' tour of the farm and surrounding sites, which can include a trip to the nearby emu farm.

Mr Shepard is also a very talented welder and while he never sells a sculpture, the garden is dotted with hundreds of metal works of art including Charlotte the pig, butterflies and spiders, a band ('Metal As Anything'), flowers, a panther, a donkey — in fact you name it, and you will probably find it hidden in their garden somewhere.

A black panther in the garden made by Mick.

"There is something special about our farm," Mrs Shepard said.

"Whether it is the open space, the animals both domestic and the wildlife, the clear star-filled night sky and the surrounding town and attractions, we live in a diverse and great area and it seems other people like to share it too."

For the past couple of months the family has been experimenting with milking the herd once a day, and it has been working quite well so far.

"I am in the dairy a bit longer in the mornings than I normally would be," Mr Shepard said.

"I have to make sure every cow is milked out properly to keep the cell count in check, but other than that it has been going really well."

Mr Shepard said the real test would be when the spring calving cows hit the shed.