Comboyne Stories

Legendairy unites Comboyne community

Comboyne dairy farmer Shane Debreceny (on the left) hopes the town’s `Legendairy’ status rubs off on others considering a career in the field.

Shane, 33, is one of only a few young farmers in the region and he hopes that being named the Legendairy Capital of NSW will inspire others to take on farming in the region.

“It’s a good title to have because it gets everyone more involved in dairy and reminds people what dairy does for the town,” Shane said.

“If dairying wasn’t here there wouldn’t be much here. Legendairy has really brought the community together.”

As it is, Comboyne, in the Port Macquarie hinterland, is home to a cluster of 13 dairy farms, mostly run by farmers nearing retirement age.

“Being named the Legendairy Capital brought some younger people to the industry. It’s a hard industry to get into if you don’t have a family background to help out,” Shane said.

“A lot of local farmers are ready to retire. We’ve got three younger fellas that have taken over their family farms, including me, but the others don’t have anyone next in line.”

Shane says his proudest achievement in the dairy industry is being willing to stand up and take it on. He moved back to the family farm about six years ago and in July he and his wife Nicole took over the business from his father Trevor who has taken an early retirement.

Shane never wanted to leave dairy but was forced to look for other work after deregulation.

“With deregulation I left and worked in the Hunter Valley on beef properties, while dad cut the herd numbers and worked off farm. When we came back six years ago we had 30 cows. We’ve built it up to 80 on 149 hectares and we’d like to grow a bit more, but not become too big,” he said. “Now the milk price is a bit better we can build it up.”

Shane was born and raised on the farm and continues to love the lifestyle, as do his children Aiden, 6, and Jacob, 3.

“I’ve always wanted to do it since I was a kid,” he said. “I like the routine of dairy farming, compared to beef.  Dairy is a challenge every day. It gets even harder when you have to push the profit button to make a living out of it.”

He’s also enjoying raising his children the way he was raised.

“As kids we reared the calves, milked, got the cows, explored the farm and as you get older you start using machinery,” he said. “Our kids are very keen. I might have to buy a second farm for them.”

Shane has Illawarra cows; although he admits they are not the most popular breed he thinks their longevity and good production values make them the best. 

“Everyone is into black and white cows but I’ve always had a fascination with reds. I’ve still got 15-16 year old red cows milking as well as the day they came in.

“We still milk in a walk-through dairy because I just love being around cows.”

Last year, he showed his cows for the first time at the Wauchope Show and he hopes to do it again.

“Shows are few and far between now and there’s the cost of travelling too, until you get big enough to have something you could win at.”

Shane has bred and shown stud poultry for many years. “I did that as a kid and as something to keep me occupied while I was running the beef properties. We always had a few chooks in the back yard and I got involved in breeding and taking a few to shows.

Since taking over the farm, Shane and Nicole have trialled different farming practices, like using organic fertilisers.

However, he admits he’s “tippy-toeing through it” when it comes to big changes.

“That’s what I think makes a good dairy farmer - someone who can multi-task and does as much for himself as he can.”

The local dairy industry is being recognised with a life-sized fibreglass cow mounted next to the general store thanks to a community grant for being named the Legendairy Capital of NSW and the Port Macquarie/Hastings Council is supporting plans for a Legendairy museum.

Shane, a Murray Goulburn supplier, is enjoying his best season in about five years and sees a bright future for dairy locally and globally.

“I think the world wants milk. It’s a staple in most people’s diets. There’s nothing else to compete with it.”

For more information on Comboyne, LEGENDAIRY Capital of New South Wales, visit www.legendairy.com.au/dairy-talk/capital

Read other stories from Comboyne below

Comboyne farmer hopes for Legendairy spin-off

Comboyne farmer hopes for Legendairy spin-off

As Comboyne gets set to unveil an innovative new building at the local showgrounds on December 5, dairy farmer Rod Fisher hopes the town’s new `Legendairy’ status will inspire the same sort of community spirit that helped save the showgrounds in the first place.

When community ownership of the showgrounds was under threat, Rod and others in the local farming fraternity rallied to ensure its future. The annual Comboyne Goat Race was born, becoming an integral part of the show’s revival and survival.

 

Rod also hopes the town’s Legendairy title will bring more attention to the needs of local dairy farmers.

Born into the dairy farming life, Rod, at 62 is worried that he might be the last of a dying breed in the Comboyne area.

He’s had great success and growth over the decades but believes better prices are needed to sustain local farmers.

“We started off with 225 acres when dad bought the farm in 1950 and grew it to 900 acres. We went from 40 to 300 cows but have gone back to 200 because we’ve had a bit of a problem finding labour,” Rod said.

Rod and Susan’s two sons, aged in their mid-20s, have their own careers as an electrical engineer and personal trainer. “When I milk my last cow, I’m afraid it will be last cow ever milked here, which is a shame but that’s probably how it’s going to be,” Rod said.

“The boys like the farm and don‘t want to see it sold, but they don’t plan to return to milk the cows.”

Rod’s seen a lot of change in the local dairy industry since he started in 1968.

“Originally there were 120 farmers supplying our local butter factory. We had 37 in 2000 when we were deregulated and now we’re down to 13, although we’re probably producing just as much milk because we’ve all expanded.”

Rod has been living in hope of a revival of fortunes for local farmers and says the impetus of being named the Legendairy Capital of New South Wales could lead to more hands-on interest from young people and a better price for farmers.

“Those who are left are getting older but the bank tells me I can’t retire yet. Expenses keep going up but the price per litre doesn’t really vary and doesn’t get to where it needs to be,” he said. “We’re a fair way behind the eight ball in my view.”

Rod says an extra five cents per litre would ease the concerns of local farmers.

He appreciates the Legendairy communications initiative to raise the profile and reputation of the industry and thinks the best way to promote dairying is to get children involved.

“We have busloads of kids from Port Macquarie come to the farm,” he said. “A lot of them have never been outside Port Macquarie and they think it’s fantastic. A farm is a really good place to raise kids.”

Comboyne being named the Legendairy Capital of NSW was a bit of a shock to Rod, albeit a pleasant one.

“I was quite amazed,” he said. “There are a lot of areas with more dairy farms than we’ve got but dairy farming is really important for the community; it has kept Comboyne going for all these years.”

He thinks it’s the “community minded” spirit that got the town over the line.

“Everyone fits in quite well together. It’s normal in Comboyne to help each other when there’s a problem.”

That’s what happened when the showgrounds and the annual show were under threat.

“I got involved when they couldn’t meet the insurance costs and the old buildings were falling down and they were looking at giving it to the council,” Rod said.

“I think keeping the showground as a community asset is really important. The community didn’t like it so people came out of the woodwork to help, including a lot of dairy farmers and graziers.”

On the back of being crowned the Legendairy Capital of NSW last month, the celebrations continue in Comboyne with the imminent opening of the new building, which will house an art gallery and host weddings and other celebrations for years to come.

For more information on Comboyne, LEGENDAIRY Capital of New South Wales, visit www.legendairy.com.au/dairy-talk/capital

For media and Legendairy inquiries please contact:

Mark Pearce – Media Manager, Dairy Australia

03 9694 3809 I 0423 783 756 I  mpearce@dairyaustralia.com.au

Suzi O’Dell — Communications and Engagement Manager, Farm Communities, Dairy Australia

03 9694 3718 I 0439 336 369 I  sodell@dairyaustralia.com.au

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