Farmers of the Gympie region: Rob and Barb Gear
THE first Gears to the Gympie region came up from Casino and arrived at Cedar Pocket in 1908, and by dint of some large families and hard work have established themselves on a number of properties, mostly dairy farms, in the district.
A history of leasing, purchasing and adding over a generation have meant that Rob and Barb Gear are currently running a large dairy within a few minutes from town. Theirs are the cows at the turn-off along the Tin Can Bay Rd.
Rob said that the present herd is a bit above 400 head, with the state average round the 200 mark
“We increased numbers steadily from about five years ago,” he said.
“We talked about it and worked out that fixed costs that we would be paying no matter how many cows we milked were about the same, so bigger numbers made sense.”
The ‘talking about it’ is a vital part of Barb and Rob’s management and development plans. Already plans for 2017 are well in place with machinery and irrigation systems to the fore.
“Any investments must make us more efficient in time, labour or water use,” Rob said.
They both believe that keeping up with the latest industry and management developments is important. Barb, who does most of the ‘inside’ work, is currently undertaking a management course under the auspices of Dairy Australia, which means flying to Melbourne for a few days.
“You can’t just let things roll along,” she said. “You have to get out there and be ahead of the situation, it is now about management of all resources, not just about milking cows.”
The dairy currently supports six families, plus dealing with a number of local businesses. This was illustrated by an almost traffic jam when the milk tanker, grain delivery and silage delivery semi trailer trucks arrived at the same time.
Rob thought that producing a quality product within two hours from the processing factory in the fastest growing area of the country should ensure a demand for the milk at a payable price.
“This is not how it happened,” he said. “Because of our production level, a few cents per litre down adds up to big numbers.”
In common with all farmers we talk to in the region, the complaint is that they are at the bottom of the chain and feel neglected by governments in their fight to get a decent return for their investment and labour.
Both Rob and Barb see the increase in purchases of branded milk products by consumers as the life line for the dairy industry.
Rob said that they hope that some family members will want to continue the dairy farm, and that it and the local industry will remain viable.