Les and Lyn Hornby, Monomeith - August // 2024 Mental Health Calendar

by Gippsland Jersey

Les and Lynne's foray into dairy farming began in 1997, driven by their son’s ambition to become a dairy farmer. Despite their son's career change, the couple, now nearing their seventies, have stayed the course, amassing over 25 years in the industry. A recent land acquisition has them thinking about retirement, but not before they’re ready to downsize from their current 570 head dairy operation.

Lynne speaks candidly about the prospect of retiring: “I don’t want to be farming when I’m 80. But, people say that all of a sudden when you stop milking cows…it’s like ‘What am I going to do?’ I reckon a lot of farmers have real trouble...coping with retirement.”

For now, the couple like to maintain active roles within their operation. Despite employing several staff to deal with the day-to-day tasks, Les rounds up the milkers most days and Lyn involves herself with their extensive calving program along with managing the books.

When asked what they felt were the biggest challenges in the industry, Les was quick to highlight the financial difficulties that they’ve had to overcome, none more challenging than the infamous farm gate price cuts in 2016. “Debt, that’s the hardest thing…it’s bloody stressful. I reckon 2016 probably set us back 6 years. I couldn't do nothing.”

Throughout this period they had to adopt a "drip feeding" approach to manage their debts, carefully prioritizing which bills to pay when income was short. Lyn recounts the unenviable task of calling creditors: “It was hard, but I found that as long as you are honest with them and work with them, then they'll work with you.”

Their resilience through these challenges is evident. Les and Lyn have never considered giving up, even when confronted with the stresses of financial management and the burdens it brought.

This mindset is derived from a simple philosophy based on communication and the willingness to build solid support networks. “You got have good people around you. We've got really good staff. I look after them, but they look after me as well. You know, you got to have it both ways.” Curating a positive attitude is as much about choosing the right relationships for Les. “Don't even talk to anybody that's negative. You got it. It comes down to negative for me. It does. Walk away.”

Their story is not just about dairy farming but also about perseverance, the importance of planning and community, and the need for a positive outlook on life. As they look toward retirement, Les and Lynne continue to embody the values of hard work and resilience that have defined their time in the industry.




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