THE lighter side of farming life was on show at the Sungold Field Days farmer challenge yesterday.
Three teams took on the Young Dairy Development Program (YDDP) event, which was a playful mix of practical skills and farm-themed fun.
Competitors worked as a team in a race to complete a series of tasks including running out an electric fence, shaving a balloon and knocking over a milk bottle using a gumboot.
It was an entertaining shuffle to the finish with a group sack race and the YDDP team — aptly named Legendairy — reigned supreme.
The team of Bess Lamont, Michael Hawker, Chloe Warden-Flood and Phillip Meade narrowly defeated teams from RIST and Emmanuel College to claim a cash prize and the chance to compete at the farmer challenge event at the Melbourne show.
Mr Hawker said the win was unexpected given the team was put together just minutes before the competition began.
“We’ve just got natural ability,” he joked.
But the team had good pedigree — Mr Meade was a member of the winning team two years ago and Mr Hawker was part of the Heywood team that won the inaugural National Dairy Challenge late last year.
There were more thrills from the high flyers at Whip Industries with professional riders Travis and Nathan Whitten launching themselves into the sky on board Kawasaki KLX110L motorbikes.
The duo wowed crowds with backflips, multiple tricks and tandem jumps.
Five Grassmere Primary School pupils had a field day to remember, standing between the two ramps as the professional riders leapt over their heads.
Watching the motorbike antics from further up the hill was Monk and Sons Contracting owner Sam Monk, who had plenty of machinery on show.
“It’s good to come along, it means people get to see it all,” said Cobden-based Mr Monk, who has been in business for the past six years and attended the field days for the past four.
The Standard On The Land site award winner has quickly built up his contracting work.
“I started with my dad’s tractor off the farm, now I’ve got nine,” he said.
Swan Hill-based Tyntynder Stockfeeds’ Evan and Luke Walker have occupied the same field days site for the past eight years.
“It makes it easy for people to find us,” Evan Walker said.
“We supply a lot of stuff down here. It’s good to be here because customers can come up and talk to us and they can see what they’re going to get.”
The business has a farm at Swan Hill that supplies its oaten and wheaten hay and growers around the Horsham region supply the rest.
A display of fodder beets at the Grass Growers site created plenty of interest.
“It’s a new crop for us this year,” employee Luke Davison said.
“It’s a good catch-up. People are just starting to think about what to sow for the rest of the year and getting ready for autumn sowing. Three farmers are trialling the fodder beets this year.
“We’re hoping to get more next year.” The fodder beet is closely related to sugar beet and is popular in New Zealand as a winter food because of its high yields.
“It’s got a 180 to 200-day maturity, but the yields are quite high,” Mr Davison said.
Beyondblue volunteers Barb and Charlie Nichols pulled up their bus at the field days in the first stop of a nine-month awareness-raising tour up Australia’s east coast.
“We have pamphlets of all the different issues of anxiety and depression. We don’t counsel, we try to direct people to counsellors,” Mr Nichols said.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of anxiety and depression and remove the stigma surrounding it.”
The Kinglake-based pair were originally farmers in the Albury-Wodonga region, so understand the issues facing farmers and their reluctance to seek help.
Warrnambool is the first stop for the couple in a 15-stop field days roadshow that will finish in central Queensland in October.
While the field days are famous for dairy, Joan and Ian Symons, of Lanaud Limousins, Allansford, regularly attend to show off their beef breed.
The Symons brought two heifers with them — Hot Prize and Johara — which are both in calf to a French bull.
“People come to inquire and they see how good the temperament is,” Mrs Symons said.
“They are a leaner breed, they don’t have the fat of the other breeds. They have a smaller bone so they have a good dressing weight.”
The annual field days event wraps up today with a visit from federal Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenburg.
Mr Frydenburg and member for Wannon Dan Tehan will take a tour of the field days site before the assistant treasurer makes the keynote address at the official field days luncheon.
This evening dairy’s best and brightest will be at The Standard Industry Dinner at the Mid City Warrnambool.
The dinner will include the presentation of The Standard’s On The Land Rural Achiever Awards and a charity auction to raise money for the Leila Rose Foundation.