Dairy farmers turn udder way after half century on the land
AFTER more than 50 years milking cows on a scenic dairy farm in the hills just north of Lismore, Tom Griffin is hanging up his hat.
Mr Griffin and his wife, Fran, are selling their herd of 60 dairy cattle and will ease themselves into a new phase of life.
The early mornings and late nights of a dairy farmer's life will soon be in the past.
"I will miss the cows but we'll get adjusted and edge our way into retirement," he said.
Much has changed in the dairy industry since Mr Griffin bought the farm from his father in the early 1970s, before marrying Fran in 1974 and raising five children.
There used to be five dairies in the small valley; by next week there will be one.
It was his father who originally purchased and worked the farm in the early 1900s and the lane that leads to the home off Woodlawn Rd is named after the family.
None of the couple's children followed their parents into the professional farming business; most of them went to university instead and became professionals - which he said was a smart thing.
Their five kids are divided between Brisbane, Dalby and Mudgee nowadays and the couple boast 11 grandchildren.
The 1980s and '90s were a good time to be selling milk - in fact, for the first 25 years of their marriage, Fran Griffin didn't have to work.
Prices were excellent and the farm "got ahead".
The property endured and enjoyed occasional flood-ins and Mrs Griffin recalled becoming used to racing down to Lismore in heavy rain to pick up supplies.
"You come home and you know you will probably spend a week here," she laughed.
"I used to think it was great when the kids were little, you get to catch up on things. The kids used to get quite excited."
In the early 2000s, family-run dairy farms faced a tough climate to keep up with technological changes and increasing red tape, even as the retail price of milk has dropped.
"The prices haven't been as good and as the body ages it's harder to keep up the workload," Mrs Griffin said.
There's "quality assurance procedures", with licences required from the NSW Food Authority.
Modern farms even have ear tags connected to computer systems, which keep a digital record of the health of each cow.
Mr Griffin said he was always able to get the job done with diligent, hand-written notes.
A dairy farmer's life is marked by the twice daily routine of milking, between which the farmer spends hours in the paddocks, ploughing and fertilising their feed crops.
"There's always something to do," Mr Griffin said.
While the couple is saying farewell to their cows, they won't leave the property.
It's only five minutes from downtown Lismore, so there is no need to downsize yet.
"Me and Fran have had a good life ... we've had our ups and downs but it seemed to have ended up all right," Mr Griffin said.