First-generation farmer Colin Squires shares his journey from suburban life to owning and operating a cattle farm in Swanpool, Victoria.
Moving against the tide of urbanisation, Colin Squires and his partner Annalie left suburban Melbourne back in 2014 to fully embrace farming life. They’ve been slowly building up their Angus breeding herd and have recently purchased a 240 acre farm in North-Eastern Victoria.
“I'm not from a farming background at all, so I guess it started in 2008 when I worked in England for six months. My uncle actually has a farm over there and I hadn’t seen him forever, so it was an opportunity to go and work over there.”
With a background in sales, Colin now works for his local Rural Water Authority. He is also one subject away from finishing his Agricultural Science degree, and is keen to start applying his off-farm experience to successfully running the property.
“It's been really good. I think I should be able to run this place a lot more effectively using what I've learnt at uni.”
Building from the ground up while maintaining full time jobs off-farm means efficiency is a key priority, and Colin has found that it’s often the small things that make the biggest impact.
“I have a cowbell that was given to me as a joke 10 years ago, maybe more. Now I always use the same bell for moving cattle, it makes it really easy. I only have to walk up to a gate and they could be 800 metres away and I can just ring this bell and they'll come over straight away. I often don't have much time, so I can literally be on the phone, ring the bell, then as soon as they run over, put them in the next paddock.”
Another small decision with big impact was signing up to Mobble.
“Going to uni and learning how you actually need good data to make decisions, that was a big contributor to why we signed up with Mobble. I was slipping in the way of recording data, because I'd have to remember it, write it down, then go back into the office, and write it down somewhere else. Now I can just punch it into the phone.”
With limited space on the farm, maximising pasture growth through optimum grazing management is an important goal for Colin, and he credits Mobble for making that possible.’
“I like to be able to look back quickly when I’m planning rotations and see “when did I spray that?” or “how many days has that got a withholding period for? What tasks are in that field?” It's handy knowing the areas of the paddocks on Mobble and how many stock are in there so I can work out how many animals have been there for how long. I’m trying to make sure they're not just eating all the good stuff and leaving the less desirable pasture species to go to seed.
The task function has also been really good because I'll forget half the time if the pump is on or off, or I'll try and use something and it won't work. Now I get reminded I’ve got to do that job.”
Mobble even helps when the family comes to visit the farm: “My parents in law can log in and know where the cattle are if they're coming over to visit. They can go and check them, and they know which gates they can leave open.”
Due to its flexibility, Colin’s wife Annalie has been able to tailor Mobble to assist with managing their horse agistment operation. “It’s been really great for the horse agistment because I can quickly look up who the horse is and then know its owner, and I can ring them if there’s a problem. It's also great to look back on the paddock history to work out which management practices are showing better pasture management results, since horses can destroy a pasture quickly if given the chance.”
Working with surrounding property owners Colin now has the opportunity to manage 450 acres next door, expanding the scope for future production. Colin envisages a big future for the farm including increasing the Angus breeding herd, starting a complimentary sheep enterprise, carbon capture and storage in their forested areas, and possibly even an aquaponics operation in the dam.
Mobble will continue to be an essential tool for success as Colin and Annalie build up their enterprise.
“It's easy to use and it saves you a lot of time. It's simple. You’re less likely to forget something that could lead to a failure later. It just makes you operate more effectively, you’re more on top of it, not finding surprises.”
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