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Dairy farmer’s call of duty 

WHEN you milk cows before the sun comes up, the last thing you need is an emergency in the middle of the night.

But for Legendairy farmers and Country Fire Authority volunteers, like Evan Bourchier, answering the call for help is just part of living in a rural community.

Evan is captain of Strathmerton CFA, which deals with about 70 emergency call-outs each year, ranging from major bushfires along the nearby Murray River to house fires in the small town, just west of Cobram.   

For nine-to-five workers, the regular call-outs and training can make firefighting a big commitment, but for dairy farmers like Evan, responding to emergencies can put a genuine strain on time, energy and resources.

Milking the cows can’t be put off until later in the day, so when he jumps in the ute to head to the fire station, Evan’s wife and fellow CFA volunteer Tamsin or their employees all need to step-up to help out.

But don’t think Evan or any other dairy farmer is complaining about volunteering. He sees the CFA as a vital part of the local district and is proud to share the responsibility of keeping his community safe.

“You also enjoy the mateship with your fellow firefighters that all get out of bed at two o’clock in the morning when the alarm goes off,” he said.

“Luckily we don’t have too many call-outs at one or two in the morning. But they are always the hardest, because you can’t get back to sleep.”

While CFA responsibilities can – and often do – come at inconvenient times, for dairy farmers like Evan, they offer a rare chance to get away from the farm and have a break from running a dairy business.

“I can work day and night on the farm, so as much as the brigade can be a pain when you are in the middle of doing something, it gets you off the farm and can get your mind off what’s happening on the farm.”

And the 29-year-old knows that while he may be on the truck that arrives to save a house, shed or paddock anywhere across northern Victoria, one day it might be his farm that needs help from a brigade chock-full of busy farmers like him.

“When you’re not home and something happens, it is nice to know that someone is coming to help,” he said.

“As another farmer once said to me, when the cow manure hits the fan, it’s nice to see those red and blue flashing lights coming down the road.”