Tim Jelbart, Leongatha South // November 2023 "Farming Conversations" Calendar

by Gippsland Jersey

Where Is Your Farm Located?

Our farm is situated in Leongatha South.

How Many Cows Are You Currently Milking?

We are currently milking 1175 cows, along with 1500 head of beef and dairy replacements. Livestock income constitutes 20-25% of our total revenue.

People Often Wonder How You Manage Everything, Tim.

Managing our farm is made possible by our incredible team of staff, with over 100 years of combined experience. This includes a team member who has been with us for nearly 30 years, another for 20 years, and our farm manager for 11 years. What sets our workplace apart is the variation in work and shifts. Staff typically spend five to six hours milking, and then they have a couple of hours to focus on other farm tasks. We schedule heavier staffing from Tuesday to Thursday, as that's when we tackle most of the major tasks. This arrangement allows most of our staff to have both a weekday and a weekend day off, helping them maintain a healthy work-life balance.

How Many Staff Members Are Employed at Jelbart Dairy?
We have a total of 21 people employed at Jelbart Dairy, including myself.

Could You Tell Us About Your Role?

I serve as the director and general manager. My responsibilities encompass overseeing the farm from a big-picture perspective, which includes budgeting, financial projections, strategy development, planning, and risk management.

It's Evident That You've Structured Your Farm Business Efficiently.

Thank you. My goal is to make myself somewhat redundant in the operation. However, it seems like I'm becoming more deeply ingrained in it. In the event something happens to me, I want the farm to have a robust structure to continue running smoothly. I am fortunate to be surrounded and supported by competent individuals who know what they're doing. This includes my wife, brothers, our team of staff, specialist advisers, and contractors. We are also actively implementing policies and procedures to facilitate troubleshooting in my absence.

Have You Made Significant Changes in How You Run the Farm Compared to How Your Dad Managed It?

Not significantly. We've maintained a similar approach. We have a remarkable farm manager and staff who enable me to focus on the business and project aspects of the operation. We always strive to innovate and make the business more efficient and profitable.

Many Dairy Farmers Would Aspire to Have a Business Like Yours, Tim.

Managing a farm with numerous moving parts can be challenging, and our wage bill may be higher than many other farm businesses. However, this structure allows me to have a fulfilling life away from the farm, where I can spend quality time with family and friends. This is more valuable to me than simply increasing my income. It also fosters a more sustainable way of life and keeps our staff content, reducing staff turnover as we have more people working fewer hours, mitigating burnout.

What's Your Advice for Supporting People in Managing Their Mental Health?

Effective communication is paramount. I invest significant time in talking to and engaging with our staff. I strive to be approachable and available to everyone. If there's an issue, it's better to address it and work on finding a solution rather than bottling it up and waiting for it to become a problem. This principle applies to me as well. I have a network of people around me who serve as my sounding boards and emotional support.

Your Dad Would Be Incredibly Proud of You, Carrying on the Family Farm and Making It a Success.

Thank you, I believe he would be. I'm working to put my own mark on the business. My dad built this business from the ground up, and my aim is to refine it further. He faced numerous challenges in the early years as he established the business. Growth was difficult for a while because resources were tight, and we couldn't invest in the farm the way we wanted to. Fortunately, in recent years, we've had the revenue to address long-overdue repairs, maintenance, and capital expenditures. One of our priorities is to keep all our machinery updated and well-maintained to minimize staff frustration with breakdowns. Although things can still go wrong, there's a strong sense of staff morale, and I often find our team laughing and enjoying themselves in the lunchroom.

It Sounds Like You've Created a Fantastic Work Culture.

I believe so. We work diligently to foster and maintain a positive culture, and we take great pride in it. We deeply value our staff and want them to know that. We want them to look forward to coming to work and feel like integral parts of our team. To promote this sense of belonging and teamwork, we provide our staff with Jelbart Dairy shirts and jumpers. While these uniforms aren't mandatory, our staff seem to enjoy wearing them, and they take pride in representing our farm, often wearing their shirts at the local supermarket.

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