Casino Dairy Farmers
By SHAN GOODWIN
THE biggest challenge of dairying, says Dobies Bight's Fleur Tonge, is not the continual push to produce more for less, or the battle to farm in an environmentally friendly way.
It's trying to have a life.
Fleur and Sam Tonge have set up their 240-head farm west of Casino so that life is not just day-after-day of milking and farm maintenance.
In the process, they have been able to implement leading-edge irrigation, fertilising and drainage systems.
Their innovative approach is now winning industry recognition. Fleur is one of three finalists in the State's Farmer of the Year competition.
Judges from NSW Farmers will visit Kupidabin, the Tonges' farm, tomorrow and their decision will be announced on July 20.
The Tonges are in a game that is fast losing players. Ten years ago there were 450 dairy farmers on the Northern Rivers. Now there are only 145.
Fleur said it was the long hours and the tied-to-the-land nature of dairying that was the main reason people were dropping out.
"We hire part-time workers and put emphasis on ensuring anyone can take time out to do other things," she said.
It has meant Fleur has been able to work on areas like soil biology, land care and composting their manure and hay to use as fertiliser.
Fleur grew up on a dairy farm in Beaudesert, studied commerce and worked as an auditor before buying Kupida- bin with Sam 24 years ago.