Nursing a dairy ambition

By Country News on March 12, 2016
  • Nursing a dairy ambition

    This summer turnip crop was a calculated risk that paid off for Aaron.

  • Nursing a dairy ambition

    Morningside Stud has an impressive herd of Jersey cows

  • Nursing a dairy ambition

    Morningside Stud has an impressive herd of Jersey cows

  • Nursing a dairy ambition

These days, an emergency for Aaron Thomas is a broken pump in the dairy shed at milking time.

Not so long ago, it was car accident injuries, stab wounds and critically ill people.

As an emergency nurse at Melbourne's Alfred hospital, Mr Thomas was at the sharp end of life's misery, dealing with the tragedy and sadness that comes with critical medical situations.

Helping save lives on a daily basis was stimulating and rewarding, but the lure of country life proved too much for the then 20-something nurse.

``It was a bit of an eye-opener,’’ Mr Thomas said of his time at The Alfred.

``The experience was awesome. I certainly don't regret it – I don't regret anything – but I just needed a change in lifestyle.

``I hated Melbourne. I used to call it the concrete jungle.’’

Growing up around Yarram where his late mother Cathy ran a caravan park and cooked at the local hospital, Mr Thomas was familiar with dairy farming, but had no family connection with the industry.

A job at a large commercial farm was his introduction to dairy farming, but he felt he needed to be more than just a worker if he was to make a career out of cows.

It was when he took up a job offer at the Won Wron farm of Paula and Lisa Mumford in 2006 that his life started heading in a direction that now sees him managing a farm partnership with an ever-growing herd to his name.

``I had a basic knowledge when I started – I could fix fences, milk cows and drive a tractor – but Paul and Lisa really pushed me down the path of bigger and better things with a business management role,’’ he said.

``I started there pretty green and worked my way up. When I left the home farm, I knew every aspect of the business.’’

Three years ago, Mr Thomas and his wife Vanessa entered into a partnership arrangement with the Mumfords on a Binginwarri farm bought by the Won Wron couple.

The younger couple bought a herd with the help of the Mumfords and are paying it back from salary deductions over the next five years.

After that time, the plan is to move to a 50/50 split or for the Thomases to start leasing.

It’s an arrangement that allows Mr Thomas to run his own show, while still having the financial support and experience of an established farming family behind him.

Asked how crucial the Mumfords have been in helping him to develop equity in the industry, Mr Thomas was blunt.

``I wouldn't have had a hope in hell without them,’’ he said.

He’s equally forthright about their impact on his career and personal development.

``I started with Paula and Lisa when I was in my early 20s, so I grew up as a farmer and person when I was with them,’’ he said.

``I had a lot of stuff happening at that time, but they just kept me level-headed and kept pushing me forward, and it all worked out well.’’

The Binginwarri property is 133ha with 220 cows, comprising 90 per cent Jerseys with a few crossbreeds ``to make up the numbers’’.

The 32-year-old joins all his cows to Jerseys, but he has no intention of turning Morningside Stud into a full-blown registered breeding establishment just yet.

For the time being, he just wants quality cows who can keep the milk coming into the vat with a minimum of fuss.

``They have to be sound, I do not tolerate poor temperament, and they have to have really good udders,’’ he said.

``For me and the business where we are at right now, I can't justify registering every cow.’’

On a property that Mr Thomas said could ``grow a tonne of grass’’, making the most of the high rainfall and strong fertility is a priority.

Developing some neglected hill paddocks is the next step for the farm business, but an even higher priority is always at the back of the Thomases’ minds.

Spending quality time with daughters Breanna, Lexi and Evie is important to the couple.

``I weigh everything up, whether it’s personal or lifestyle, and we don’t compromise the lifestyle we have,’’ Mr Thomas said.

``If I want to sit down for an hour and do something with the kids, I do it and I don’t look at my watch.

``If I milk at five o’clock — big deal.’’

By Country News on March 12, 2016

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