DIRK Veldhuizen’s farm proves that good things can come in small packages.
Milking just 72 cows, the Meeniyan farmer has a Friesian cross herd that would be the envy of any farmer in the district.
His 140 acres property runs onto the Tarwin River and takes in some of the best land in the region.
With a generous cow per acre ratio, Dirk has the luxury of plenty of home grown feed, as well as being able to produce high quality fodder.
It’s a set-up that allows him to make a fair living, without a lot of the pressure that comes with running a big operation.
He also believes that the smaller farms (although not as small as his) allow for greater movement within the industry, with the transfer of bigger farms a looming issue.
“I think the problems will come later on when the farm has to be sold,” he said.
“Who can afford to buy a 1000 cow dairy farm? Only the Chinese or big companies.”
“Anyway, I think smaller farms do better than the 800 cow farmers because you don’t need to have people running around – you can do it all yourself. ”
While a tanker driver once told him of a 50 cow farm somewhere in Gippsland, Dirk has never met a farmer milking as few cows as he does.
But being small doesn’t mean there are any short cuts in the way the farm is operated.
One look at Dirk’s herd shows animals in peak health – they are some of the finest looking Friesians in the Gippsland.
The reason –according to their owner – is a regime of mineral supplements that has almost done away with vet bills and seen calving and mastitis problems reduced to negligible levels.
“They are a lot healthier than they were before,” Dirk said.
“Years ago they fell down on the track. The vet came and took blood samples and they were low in selenium. So then I started with this Mineral Plus. Since then the vet bills have dropped.”
Along with the Mineral Plus additives in their feed, Dirk allows his cows to dry off in their own time and lets them join the rest of the herd in taking a feed in the dairy, even when they aren’t producing any milk.
It’s an unusual system, but one that he believes helps promote better health in his herd.
"For years I would dry the cows at six to eight weeks but now I try not to dry them off and let nature do it itself,” he said.
“Three weeks before calving the cows dry by themselves. They calve all over the farm – they just stay in the herd.
“With the minerals they look like they are a lot stronger with calving, they have very few problems. The only problem is milk fever, so I use calcium for that.”
It’s a recipe that keeps Dirk’s small farm punching well above its weight when it comes to animal health.
IN AUSTRALIA, Dirk Veldhuizen’s farm is considered a very small-scale operation, but where he comes from, it’s an above average dairy enterprise.
His native Holland, like many European dairy producing countries, fosters small scale farming, with the average Netherland’s dairy herd consisting of just 55 cows.
When he was growing up, Dirk’s mother and brother milked 40 cows and he still has friends in his homeland milking similar sized herds to his.
Changes to land ownership in Holland saw Dirk, his brother and mother move to Australia in 1983 in the hope of finding better – and bigger – opportunities.
“This is the best country,” he said.
“It was still quite good (when he left Holland) because of the subsidies over there. But they are all gone now.”
Moving from the central Netherlands area of Utrecht, the 21-year-old hardly spoke a word of English, making the transition to Australian farming a tricky proposition.
He endured the hard years, however, and eventually ran his own farm when his brother moved to nearby Kongwak.
Now, with a self-sustaining farm where he can produce his fodder needs and afford a once-a-day milker to lend a hand, Dirk is relishing the rewards of all his hard work.
“I love it,” he said.
“I love the freedom and I’m my own boss.”