Ben & April Damschke, Trafalgar - MARCH 2022 Calendar
by Gippsland Jersey
‘The ground may be dry, even on the stormiest of days, but just remember, the most important thing in life; to hold on to your family and friends’.
Ben and April share-farm in Trafalgar. They run 420 cows on a rotary dairy that sat idle during one particularly difficult season, during the milk price crash and the Gippsland drought. For nearly four years, they didn’t run a profit on the farm and nearly gave up. As much as April wanted to leave and find alternative work, Ben’s stubborn and competitive streak just wouldn’t let him quit.
In 2015, when Ben and April began farming, things were going along well for them. They had two beautiful children, a strong relationship and farming conditions were fruitful. 10 months later, however, Ben received a distraught call from his milk officer which changed his life. Milk was suddenly dropping from $6 per litre to $1.91. Together with the farm’s owner, they made the decision to dry off the cows and stop milking for the remainder of that season. April, who had been managing her mental health well up until then, spiralled into a depressive state, rendering her in bed for days on end. Ben managed the house, children and farm. Things got even worse for them when the rain didn’t come for six months in 2018. He lost feed for his cattle and straw cost $120 per bale. He was beginning to burn out and lose hope.
When the rain finally started falling and the milk prices improved, Ben recalls doing a nude run through the paddocks in the rain, grateful that his stubborn streak had seen him through; he never gave up on his family or his farm. Ben looks back on those years now and can see that his time spent each week at the local football club, chatting to mates about things other than farm stress, helped him get through, as well as the encouragement he received from the farm consulting group he was a part of. April’s doctor and her own ability to pull herself out of depression, implement a daily routine again and the love she has for her family, helped her overcome her depression. Ben and April are now in the best place they have ever been and put this down to a passion for farming, a ‘can do’ attitude, time off the farm for hobbies and belief that things will always get better.
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