Lochy Hemphill heard an uncle once say: ‘‘When everyone is walking, start running.’’
The Hemphill family took his advice and have developed its Kyabram dairy operation during some challenging seasons since 1982.
Mr Hemphill told the story of the farm’s development at the central conference of the South Australian Dairy development body, DairySA, at Tailem Bend last week.
About 35 years ago, they milked 65 cows on a pasture-based system, calving down once a year.
His parents bought the farm after pooling their savings, but borrowed during a time when interest rates hit 22 per cent.
Initially the herd was leased but, thanks to the global recession, when interest rates dropped they were able to buy the cows.
Mr Hemphill said the farm reached a pivotal point in 2002 when the family realised there were a number of options, including making some major changes or selling out.
‘‘We decided to change, so we dried off all the pastures and moved to farming without irrigation.’’
They bought in cereal hay and fed the cows on a feed pad, lifting the herd size to 300.
The next pivotal moment for the business was in 2009-10 when the family had to decide how it would incorporate Mr Hemphill and his brother Will into the business, as they had completed their studies.
That’s when Lochy recalled his uncle’s advice.
The family purchased more land which gave access to an alternative water source through the Kyabram waste treatment facility.
Mr Hemphill said a busy period followed where he and his brother were working long hours but took their focus off the bottom line.
Their assets were growing but they found they were cash poor.
They reviewed their accounting software and developed and changed the way they purchased grain, through contracts.
The business has also invested heavily in centre pivot and drip irrigation, and more recently in silage production equipment to ease the reliance on contractors.
Two years ago they built a loafing area across the feed pad to try to provide some protection from adverse weather.
After one recent heavy rain event they were able to hold production and maintain an acceptable cell count.
The business has also introduced a fertility program and switched to high daughter fertility bulls.
Calves are raised with four automatic feeders, delivering three feeds a day.