Monto farmers prepare for the next generation
With the highly contested title of Legendairy Capital of the country’s Subtropical region under Monto’s belt, local farmers Helen Goody and Steve Pailthorpe have their eyes set on the future.
Steve and Helen think the resilience of local farmers who battle on despite floods and low prices inspired the Legendairy win, and they hope the success inspires more interest in the industry.
Their dairy was set up so it could appeal to young people and Steve and Helen’s four children are already showing interest. “Steve’s father Ross was always encouraging the next generation to farm,” Helen said. “When they re-built the dairy they made sure it was low enough so children could easily get in there.”
With four children aged between two and 10, Steve and Helen have some potential farmers in the wings. All the children love going to the dairy. “Our six year old can name every cow,” Helen said.
Helen is happy to see her children continue the lifestyle, although she admits a better price for their milk would make it more appealing.
Helen but leaves the dairy work to Steve who farms in partnership with his mother Barbara.
“I don’t milk or do any of the dairy work but I help with everything else,” she said. Helen also works on other local farms.
The Pailthorpe farm has been in the family for 35 years and milks about 80 Ayrshires; an ideal number for a one-man operation. Today it’s one of only eight active dairies in the region.
“Monto was built on dairying and it’s still a big contributor, but we’ve gone from more than 400 farms to eight,” Helen said. “It’s good that a few dairy farmers are still around; they’re pretty resilient.”
They’ve had to be resilient after floods in 2013 and again this year, together with a prolonged dry spell over recent months.
Monto is home to a biennial dairy festival and will use the $2500 Legendairy prize money to upgrade yards at the showgrounds.
Helen, the Monto Show Society senior vice-president, says the work is long overdue and will help to keep dairying in the spotlight.
“The yards get used not only by the show society but by many other organisations for camp-drafts, rodeos and things like that,” Helen said. “They’re in a dangerous state and we need the upgrade for these events to continue and bring people back to Monto.”
The dairy festival, believed to be the only one of its type in the Southern Hemisphere, will return on September 24 next year.
“It celebrates everything to do with farming,” Helen said.
Helen hopes the Legendairy title bestowed on Monto as part of the communications initiative to raise the profile and reputation of the industry will promote the festival and help local dairy farmers. “It’s good because it’s promoting all dairy, not just one brand,” she said. “It would be great to get the word out a bit more; a lot of people in towns don’t understand how it [dairy farming] works.”
Steve supplies Parmalat and has the commitment needed to be successful, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“We’re paying our bills and staying ahead but the cost of living has gone up and we’re not getting the money we were getting before deregulation,” Helen explained.
But, the lifestyle continues to appeal to the couple and their family. “It’s rewarding and the kids love it. There’s still a regular cheque and we know we’re feeding the nation,” she said.
“I enjoy the lifestyle but it would be good to have holidays that last more than half a day between milking’s,” she joked.
Along with their fellow local farmers 120 kilometres west of Bundaberg, Steve and Helen have endured tough weather conditions but cope with thanks to their typical farmer resilience.
“We’re still getting over the last few floods,” Helen said. “Our fences washed away but that’s normal when you cultivate on flood flats. There were a lot of places a lot worse than us.”
Disaster brought out the best in the local community.
According to Helen “everyone helped, people get behind you when you need it”…important qualities that help make Monto truly Legendairy and deserving of its new title.