They say you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy, and that’s definitely the case with dairy farmer, Ken Ackerley.
Ken was born and raised on a farm near Colac and has spent all his working life on a dairy farm.
If everything goes to plan, the 65-year-old will spend the rest of his days on the same farm.
The same applies to his wife Jenny who grew up on a beef, sheep and dairy farm near Lavers Hill and likewise has no desire to leave the land.
Just the thought of moving to a town, let alone a big city, is enough to raise their hackles.
“I couldn’t live in the town; I just couldn’t,” Ken says.
“I like the freedom here and I still enjoy it.”
Jenny is the same. When asked if she would ever consider moving to a town the answer is a resounding ‘no’.
“Neither of us have ever lived in a town,” she said. “We both grew up on farms and lived all our lives on farms. Our girls all grew up on the farm and it’s the same with our grandkids.”
Two of their daughters are involved in the farm partnership and the third lives not far away in Port Campbell.
“We’re very lucky,” Jenny says. “Having family growing up on the farm is one of our great pleasures.”
Ken and Jenny bought their farm between Timboon and Peterborough in 1981 after earlier managing Ken’s parents’ farm at Colac and share farming in the Heytesbury settlement and Timboon areas.
They now milk 500 cows on the home rotary dairy, along with 270 crossbred cows on a second farm run by their daughter and son-in-law.
Ken is the longest standing current member of the Port Campbell Dairy Discussion Group which will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a reunion dinner on January 30, 2016.
According to Ken, learning from fellow farmers – just like he did – is one of the best ways to make headway in the dairy industry.
“If young farmers can get around and see a few farms that aren’t too heavily involved in buying feed, it might help them to get back to basics,” he said.
Growing grass was a key topic in the early days of the discussion group and the Ackerleys say that remains a vital part of farming today.
To combat rising bale feed costs the farm has “upped the ante” this year on home-grown grass.
“Costs are the main issue facing farms,” Ken said. “This year we’ve cut our feed costs by more than half. We were bale feeding six kilos on this farm, seven on the other, now we’re feeding three.
“We’ve always grown a lot of grass and cut a lot of silage, but this year we’ve concentrated on growing more. We’ve upped the ante again.”
The dairy industry has been good to the Ackerleys and they are pleased to support the Legendairy communications initiative so more people understand the appeal of dairying.
Now in their 60s, Ken and Jenny are still active on the farm.
“We don’t milk but we get involved in everything else,” Ken said. “Most of the management decisions get thrown on my shoulders.”
The freedom of their lifestyle is hard to resist.
Thanks to support from family, the Ackerleys plan to take a three-month break over summer and another two-month holiday later in the year and they allow plenty of time for their children to also take holidays.
As you can imagine, big cities are not on their holiday wish list.
This story was first published in Leading Agriculture magazine.