Winning couple keep it in the family

A YOUNG Timboon dairy farming couple last night won The Standard On The Land Rural Achiever Award in recognition of their rapid progress in the industry and sound business sense.

Mathew Whitehead and his partner Renee Warner were selected for the award in a final run-off against Port Campbell couple Rohan and Jayde Smith, who received the runner-up award.

At just 31 years of age Mr Whitehead is already into his fifth year of farm ownership and was last year joined on the farm by his partner, who has given up a career in hospitality to work full-time on the property.

Mr Whitehead’s first move towards a career in dairying came 13 years ago when he started a two-year course in agriculture at Glenormiston College.

“College probably gave me a good business approach to farming,” Mr Whitehead said.

His practical grounding came through six years working for his grandparents Norm and Betty Hardingham on the farm he now owns.

He bought the property when they retired in 2008 and milks a herd of 360 cows.

Just a year later he faced the industry’s sharpest downturn in living memory following the global financial crisis.

“It was a tough time but I knew there would be a turnaround — it was a matter of planning to get through it.

“If you show the bank that you are really going to have a go, that you have a business plan and that you can generate the cashflow, they will back you.”

The couple enjoy time away from the farm to play sports, but days off and holidays are few. But that will change with the next phase of development. 

They have formed a family trust with Mr Whitehead’s parents John and Leeanne, who farm next door.

The farms will merge and the combined herd of 7000 will be milked in a new rotary dairy.

A well as improving efficiency, they anticipate that the arrangement will allow everyone more time off.

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