Alastair Steel, Orbost - JANUARY 2022 Calendar

by Gippsland Jersey

‘Don’t conform with everything that’s out there, think outside the box sometimes. Think individually, what’s good for your neighbour isn’t necessarily good for your farm!’

Originally beef farming in Alexandra, Alastair, his wife Mandy and son James, travelled Australia’s east coast and Victoria looking for the perfect place to establish a new farm, finally settling in Orbost. This farm provided Alastair an ideal climate, rainfall, fertile soil and a close proximity to the beach. As a keen surfer, this was a must on his checklist. Since buying their land in Orbost Alastair has finally implemented many components to ensure a great work life balance.

Alastair has always found dairy farming relentless (24/7), particularly during calving. He felt he was stuck on the farm without any outside interaction. 10 years ago he adopted an automatic calf feeding system and knew that he was on to a good thing. So, in the Autumn of 2021 he moved to a robot milking system also. Alastair says that he now enjoys milking and doesn’t experience the same emotional fatigue he used to. He finishes work much earlier in the day too. Alastair says that everyone thought he was ‘bloody mad, but they’ve said that for all my farming practices’, however, some locals are now showing keen interest in his setup.  

Alastair enjoys the science behind growing grasses organically and in accordance with the type of soil he has on his property. He does the calving in Autumn, utilising the summer feed, which is too wet in winter to feed dry stock, and which easily grows on his land. He says he chooses to farm with the way his land lays. Alastair attributes much of his farming successes with ‘gut instinct’ and often goes against the advice given to him by consultants as he believes that what is right for one farm, isn’t necessarily right for the next. 

Alastair believes the key to managing the everyday stresses that dairy farming can bring is by having an escape from work. He enjoys going to the beach, catching up with other surfers and having discussions that don’t centre around cows. Being by the ocean has a calming effect on him. Dairy farming can be a 24/7 vocation if you don’t take the time to focus on other things.  

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