Doing a better job of things

Hello everyone,

For those that don’t know me, my name is Leanne Harris and I operate a dairy farm in the Mitta Valley.

Am I a feral tree hugging greenie? NO.

I'm trying to make a living milking too many cows, on too few acres, with too much debt, too little rain and too little energy.

Why did I get involved with EMS, well I’ll assure you it was not because Murray Goulburn or any body else was going to pay extra for our milk, and I knew that EMS would not somehow miraculously transform our farm into a Garden of Eden after 50 years of neglect.  I also knew that I could not afford to set aside acres of land to nurture blackberries and wombats and to allow me to feel warm and fuzzy, knowing I had done my bit for biodiversity in the Mitta Valley.

However, I did know that we could do a better job of things. 

Do I laugh now, knowing that half you folks were probably drinking the water that 300 odd cows of mine were crapping in for most of the summer?  Don’t feel too bad; you probably got some complimentary phosphorous and nitrogen in your diets as well.

I must have too much free time on my hands because I get around our place conjuring up ratbag ideas about improving things, even ground breaking thoughts like: I’m sure those new born calves would do better if there was a wind break around their paddock, or maybe the herd would have less mastitis if they weren’t all sitting on top of each other under the only half dead tree in their paddock, or will I ever be able fill this vehicle with fuel without stepping in all this crud around the tanks – Goodness there’s a radical new concept for you.

It won’t be obvious to outsiders (or even sometimes to me) but we do have this grand plan at our place for determining the priority in which things get acted upon. Items for action go on this imaginary list that consists of:

  1. The 10 year plan  Interpreted this means it won’t ever get done, and who thought up this nonsense in the first place.
  2. The 5 year plan Interpreted as a good idea, we’ll look into this one day  
  3. The 1 year plan Interpret as quite urgent – really should be done within the week.
  4. Oh S---  Interpret as do it NOW, the EPA is here and they’re getting prickly.

What has this got to do with EMS? Probably not much, except that the concept is similar to the thinking and planning processes that go into constructing your own EMS plan. 

To get started on your EMS you will be guided through a process of looking critically at your own property and assessing yourself on how well or otherwise you think you perform. 

Notice I said assessing yourself and setting your own plan, trust me there is no EMS God looking over your shoulder ready to pounce because you fibbed a bit on how well you keep your herbicide records.  Be prepared for some surprises, hey, I rated myself as having the tidiest and securest chemical store in North East Victoria if not the world; it’s just a shame that those MSDS sheets are never anywhere to be found when you need them and someone on this place must have a fetish with rubber gloves because there is never any to be found.

The EMS process is not about fixing everything overnight, but look, if you have the money and resources to do so, I’m very happy for you and I’m sure it might make the EMS God very happy too, but I expect like most farmers you will need to chip away at projects as time, money and the degree of urgency dictates – refer (4) above.

Has participation in an EMS project radically changed anything at our place, no it hasn’t.

Have we fixed everything? No and we probably never will, I see EMS as a life long process of improvement, not an overnight cure all.

Do we get paid more for our product, no, and we may never see any more dollars.

Are we achieving anything? Yes, I would like to think we are and I’ve learnt that often doing things for the environment can help with the management of your property and your bottom line.