One of the nation’s finest Holstein Friesian studs is preparing to close its doors.
Situated under the shadow of Tasmania’s Great Western tiers, Fairvale Holsteins held its Farewell to Fairvale Auction late last year, selling nearly 300 of its finest cows to buyers from across the country.
Bidders at the auction listen intently
PHOTO: The sale drew bidders from across Australia, hoping to go home with one of the nation’s best. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Leanne and Ross Dobson have made the difficult decision to sell up the family farming business after a lifetime in the dairy industry.
“It’s not called Fairvale Farewell for nothing … we are selling up the whole kit and caboodle,” Mr Dobson said.
“Leanne and myself we have done it all our lives — we did it for our respective parents … and we’ve done it together for 22 years.”
Ross Dobson stands against a fence at the property as things come to an end.
PHOTO: Over the years, Ross Dobson bred five International Dairy Week grand champions. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
The bloodlines of Fairvale’s Holstein Friesians have won the couple international awards and the admiration of breeders around the world.
Over the years the couple has bred five International Dairy Week grand champions and produced Australia’s top classified cow.
“We’ve really tried hard over the years and always paid top dollar for our semen choices — like we spent half an hour correctively mating one cow,” Mrs Dobson said.
“I think the proof is there — we get so many accolades and I’m really proud of that.”
Their greatest production, a two-time international dairy week champion, Morty Lady, scored a whopping 97 out of 100 (EX97) in the internationally recognised Holstein Friesian Evaluation System.
A large 12yo dairy cow sits walks near the gates at a rural property in Tasmania.
PHOTO: Morty Lady is the couple’s greatest production and is currently the highest classified cow in Australia. (Semex Australia: Stu Mackie)
Morty Lady achieved top points over a complex list of 22 traits including things like the udder structure, the placement and length of the teats, the way she walks and the set of her feet and legs, and even the structure of her muzzle.
“She just went on and developed tremendously, and made us proud, as well as her present owners,” Mrs Dobson said.
“And as a breeder she’s the highest pointed cow in Australia and the highest in the world, so we were over the Moon.
“It put goosebumps all over our bodies when we heard that [she was] the first cow in Australia.”
But after more than two decades in the industry, the day-to-day operations of the successful business has taken its toll on the couple.
Holidays all but a distant memory
Dairy farming can be relentless and demanding; with two milkings a day it’s early mornings and sometimes late evenings for farmers. Then there’s pasture work, silage production and other crops to tend to.
Cows are herded into the auction
PHOTO: Some of the couple’s best cattle have been auctioned off. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
The Dobsons’ true love is the dairy stud but like many farmers around the nation, they rarely get off the property.
“When was the last time we all got together? That was seven or eight years ago [and] that’s not a holiday that’s dairy week,” Mrs Dobson said.
Statistics from the National Dairy Farmer Survey reveal that they’re not alone — many dairy farmers feel burnt out and morale is waning.
“I love breeding cows, loved that sort of thing but the day-to-day grind is becoming harder and harder,” Mr Dobson said.
“To keep a stud herd up somewhere near the top, it’s a lot of work and we’re real burnt out, we need a bit of change.”
Endings make way for new beginnings
The auctioneer speaks at the fairvale farm.
PHOTO: Farmers were keen to bid on some of the nation’s top cows. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Now, some of the couple’s best cattle have gone — half to local Tasmanian buyers, the rest to Victoria.
North-west Tasmanian dairy farmer Kem Perkins paid the top price, $24,000 for one of the sale’s top cows.
“They were cheaper than I thought, one was $6,000 other one was $24,000, then I bought another one for $4,500,” Mr Perkins said
Kem Perkins looks pleased with his purchase at the auction
PHOTO: Kem Perkins from NW Tasmania bought the highest priced cow for $24,000. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
The Dobsons are philosophical about the prices, they could have been better but they’re now one big step towards life after dairy farming and that’s got them smiling.
“Since the sale, my son and I took off and had a couple of days virtually doing things off the farm. I didn’t take any phone calls about sales or business. I promised him we’d do something — no farm no cows, and we did that,” Mr Dobson said.
“It’s the first time we’ve done it in a long long time … the kids have had to put up with a bit because the farm — the cows — have been number one priority for so many years, well, all their lives.”
Leanne stands with her son near their cows
PHOTO: For both Ross and Leanne, selling the farm means more time to spend with the kids. (ABC News: David Hudpseth)
But there’s still the rest of the herd to sell, a farm to sell, and a 20-year partnership to dissolve.
Not only is this couple getting out of farming, they’re parting ways. The Dobson’s marriage is over — these days they’re partners in business only and that will end soon too.
“It was going at 150 per cent all the time, it was the pressure of farming that did it,” Mr Dobson said.
“There’s a lot of factors that come into that, but just the stress and the day-to-day stuff there isn’t time for a normal marriage,” Mrs Dobson added.
Their eyes are on the finish line, but it might be a little further away than they’d like.
With little money in the dairy industry at the moment, the Dobsons fear another auction soon won’t achieve the prices they need, and they’ll wait a bit longer until the dairy industry picks up a bit.
Farewell to Fairview will air on Landline on Sunday, February 4 at 12:30pm.