IF JONATHON Gleeson won the lottery he would still be a dairy farmer.
However, he would set the business up so he could travel when he wanted, but he would still keep his hand in the game.
Growing up on a dairy farm at Koroit, he had always loved cows, but was encouraged to expand his horizons with other opportunities.
Starting a degree in agriculture science, he soon learned he wanted to work with cows and left to begin in dairy farming.
Now, at 29, he has bought his own farm at Tarrone. It is small, by his own admission, but the 74ha block is his own. It’s the reward for many years of hard work and frugal living, including using equity in houses to finance the purchase of the farm.
“I had off-farm assets and that’s what got me there. If I hadn’t had the two properties it wouldn’t have got me there,” he said. “And I still have the two of them.”
Reducing debt was his main focus before venturing out to look at leasing a property.
“I had always wanted to own my own dairy farm,” he said. “I’d always had good advice and that was to keep paying down debt into property.”
Owning 30 cows, he borrowed the rest of the money to build the herd up to 120 and borrowed all the money to buy a tractor.
He bought the farm just before last Christmas, after leasing it from June 1, 2014 from then owners Daryl and Leah Brown, whom he praised for giving him a go.
Now milking 130 cows, he has also started working part- time for breeding company ABS.
“I had to make sure I was organised. There were lots of early starts and late nights,” Jonathon said.
“But I had to be careful. While I was off (farm) earning money if you have got a cow down, you are robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Last year he sent a million litres of milk and said this was the maximum the farm could produce, keeping in mind it had wet areas in winter, which meant pasture conservation could be a challenge.
“I’d always had that ambition to own a farm by the time I was 30,” Jonathan said.
“It probably is a little smaller that I was hoping, but realistically I couldn’t afford a farm much bigger.”
Cows and breeding are Jonathon’s passion and he has 95 per cent of his herd registered under Gleestar Holsteins.
He uses a genetic progress report to track his herd’s progress and said it was great to show the banks, as it was “a snapshot of where the herd’s at and banks do take into account that information”.
His herd has moved higher in the BPI rankings and now sits at 114 out of 1657.
Starting from scratch included “teething issues” which meant it was difficult for Jonathon to operate to a strict prescribed budget.
The Warrnambool Cheese and Butter supplier is now covering costs with the sale of milk and relying on stock sales — such as stud bulls and cows — to “balance the books”.
He said dairy farmers deserved more money for their milk and he had continued to carefully watch his dollars, even now he owns the farm.
Involved in a discussion group, he is a strong believer in surrounding himself with “successful people you want to be like” and said this was important outside the discussion group too.
Looking ahead, Jonathon will focus on consolidation.
By: SIMONE SMITH
Source: The Weekly Times