A little bit of family history scandal makes fascinating reading

With a close friend currently doing dairy genomic research in Ireland I was inspired to try and locate my family origins and see if she was close by

Both sides of my family arrived in the Illawarra region of NSW via Ireland between 1830 and 1841.

By the time I found myself back to my dairy roots, my father’s family hadn’t been dairying for 20 years and family history was rarely discussed

But as they were early settlers there is no shortage of family history online and I must admit I was fascinated by the evocative language of the time. The obituaries (see bottom of page) in particular make compelling reading.

And I am so glad I did this research I just would have loved to have known my great, great grandfather. It appears he was a bit of a trendsetter, didn’t mind standing out from the crowd and had his fair share of knockers.

John LIndsay

This is how he is recorded in local history – don’t you love the language

‘John Lindsay was one of the leaders in the dairy industry. John was an innovative thinker, willing to take risks in building up his dairy cattle. He owned a herd of Ayrshire dairy cattle that was the envy of his peers.

Lindsay was born in Ireland, in 1832, arriving in Australia in 1841 on the Orestes.  In 1878, John created a minor scandal when he purchased “The Earl of Beaconsfield’, an Ayrshire bull, for 100 pounds ($200). Local farmers thought this was foolish and extravagant. These cattle enabled him to make his herd outstanding, producing prized dairy products and show animals for many years. A daughter of Lord Beaconsfield named Honeycomb was declared the Champion Cow of the World in 1889 wining 62 ribbons and producing 36 litres of milk per day.

and the fabulous HoneyComb


Cows in Australia today can produce up to 120 litres per day and over 23,000 litres per year and some 160,000 plus litres in their lifetime. One of the key visual differences is the length of the cows teats. In 1889 it was preferential for cows to have longer teats because they were milked by hand.


Today their teats are much shorter, their udders more compact and cows have been bred to have the ability to produce large volumes of milk from increased feed conversion efficiency ( that is ability to turn grass into milk very efficiently) which means they generate less green house gas emissions per litre of milk produced.

I am confident my great, great grandfather would be very excited about the dairy cows of the 21st century and would be enthralled by the genomic research that Dr Jo Newton is doing in Ireland. I feel a guest blog coming on

*  the obituaries make compelling reading. This is how the death of my great, great grandfather’s younger brother was reported

As briefly stated in last issue, Mr. T. F. Lind
say, of Unanderra, died somewhat unexpectedly
at his residence on Friday afternoon. Mr.
Lindsay had been in his usual state of health
Thursday, on which day he was engaged branding
calves. While overheated, he drank rather
copiously of water, and in the afternoon com
plained of severe cramps in the stomach. Dr.
Thompson was sent for, and pronounced the
attack one of British cholera, at the same time hold
ing out little hope of recovery. Though everything
that medical skill could devise was done, Mr.
Lindsay, after a brief illness of less than
twenty-four hours, but which was very severe
while it lasted, succumbed to the dread malady
in the afternoon of Friday. Mr. Lindsay being
widely known throughout the district and
deservedly held in the highest esteem, a very
large concourse of people had assembled at his
late residence at noon (the hour fixed for the
funeral), but a telegram having been received by
the family from an only sister of the deceased
gentleman who resided near Melbourne to the
effect that she was leaving by the express train,
and asking to delay the funeral if possible, the
mournful procession was delayed until 2 o’clock.
The funeral cortege was one of the largest ever
seen in this district. On reaching St. Luke’s,
the coffin was conveyed into the church, where
the Rev. J. Stack, the incumbent, conducted a
short service, after which the body was consigned
to the tomb in close proximity to the graves of
the deceased’s lamented father and mother
and other members of the family, Rev.
J. Stack again officiating. The late Mr.
Lindsay was of a genial and kindly disposition,
and universally esteemed for his many virtues.
For some years past he took a warm interest in
municipal matters, and occupied a seat in the
Central Illawarra Council. He also took an
active part in the formation and furthering of the
interests of the Unanderra dairy factory, of
which he was also a director. Like the rest of
the family of that name, he was a successful
dairyman, and at all times took a prominent part
in connection with the Dapto Agricultural and
Horticultural Society, being an active member of
the committee up to the time of his death. The
deceased gentleman was the youngest member of
the Lindsay family, and was almost a native of
the district, being only one year old when he
arrived here with his parents. He died in the
full strength and vigor of his manhood, having
only reached the age of 49 when he was thus
suddenly cut off. He leaves behind him (in ad
dition to other relatives to mourn their loss) a
widow and twelve children, the ages of the latter
ranging almost from infancy to well on towards
25 years.

Lessons to learn from the young

It is very easy to be negative about what we arent doing but its so much more exciting to showcase a job well done

Let’s use 2013 Cotton Young Farming Champion Ben Egan as a great example of this.

Ben recently gave this introductory speech to the first 2014 Young Farming Champions workshop on the weekend. The brief was ‘share your story and your passions’. Now Ben has been through the program already and did know what we were looking for and there is no denying Ben is entertaining (and on reflection that black eye from rugby game the night before should have prompted me to film him from the other side)

Click the photo or access this link to hear Ben’s speech


Ben wasn’t the only one in the room proud of what he does and excited to be able to share it. We had 20 young people in the room from 5 different industries with the same fire in their bellies. Sadly there were no dairy farmers in the room to be inspired by their peers.

Ben has also spent the last 12 months with the support of his family and friends and the amazing technology that is the GoPro camera collecting photographs and footage  to create a video to share with the schools he will visit as part of the Archibull Prize (and the world) that espouses his love for farming, for cotton and a career in agriculture

I loaded Ben’s Young Farming Champion’s video yesterday and its already had 400 hits on YouTube – its a masterpiece. Click the photo or this link to see this video that is sure to go viral


But then its not surprising Ben is such a superstar at such a young age. Ben comes from an industry where my generation set the example that needs to be set if we are to change the way the world perceives agriculture

What a great example is cotton industry leader Barb Grey who is supporting and mentoring another 2013 Cotton Young Farming Champion Liz Lobsey who is running the Next Gen in Cotton Forum at the Cotton Conference in August

Here is the blurb from the website –

Next Gen In Cotton Forum to Make Its Mark at the Australian Cotton Conference


The Australian Cotton Conference will cater for its younger demographic through a new Next Gen in Cotton program aimed to ensure the voices of up and coming leaders and industry participants are heard.

According to Conference Chairman Barb Grey, the Australian cotton industry has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to taking up new technologies and developing more sustainable and economical ways of operating.
“The business environment for growers and those who supply and service our industry is moving fast and changing rapidly,” she said.
“It’s essential the next generation of industry players are involved in the future development of our industry and even more essential that the next generation take some ownership of the future direction of the industry.
“We wanted to provide a forum to allow this to happen as part of our Conference program and I’m delighted that a young agronomist on our committee, Liz Lobsey, has taken the running on this,” Barb said.
The Next Gen in Cotton Forum is FREE to attend, aimed at people aged 35 and under and will:
• Recap the industry’s Vision 2029:  “Carefully Grown, Naturally World’s Best’, and determine how Next Gen can have a positive impact on our vision,
• Provide tools for Next Gen to better communicate effectively on personal and professional levels
• Provide an opportunity for Next Gen to create networks and build on established connections
Darling Downs agronomist Liz Lobsey is leading the charge, and pulling together an interesting program that will deliver on the objectives above.
“We’re still in the planning phase and what we do know is that the forum will be held on Wednesday 6 August and include a breakfast and facilitated workshop session,” Liz said.
“The Next Gen breakfast forum will deliver a unique experience and provide an environment where younger people are able to speak freely with like-minded peers. We want those who have chosen to attend the Next Gen in Cotton Forum to walk away with a spring in their steps, and with a fire in their bellies about the exciting future of the cotton industry,” she said.

I know if I was government or an overseas investor this is one industry I would want to talk to.

Just to prove my point the cotton industry has just released their CottonWolf video to promote their conference. Check it out here It’s outrageous and Barb does a wolf diva cameo at the end

Barb Grey Wolf Diva

Wolf Diva – Barb Grey

Oh my goodness is that CEO I spot on the left.

Adam Kay

Adam Kay wrapped in cotton.  Could it get any better. Too delicious for words   

For budding Ben’s out there keen to tell the great stories of their industry some pointers from Justine MacKay can be found here

Yogurt is just a small part of the story

I am a 6th generation dairy farmer who knows quite a bit about the dairy industry, a bit about the beef, sheep and wool industry and these days I am proud to say I know much more than the average person about the cotton industry.

I will also quite readily admit I probably know little more than the average Joe Blow about forestry, fisheries, rice growing, milking goats, growing avocados, oranges, olives or grapes and many, many of the other paddock to plate and field to fabric processes

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Dairy farmer Rob McIntosh’s shares the cow to carton story with local school students

So when the Primary Industries Education Foundation released their now legendary survey results that showed some very interesting origins for yogurt I wasn’t overly surprised


But is not the lack of paddock to plate knowledge that is of most concern, its the lack of knowledge about the environmental and health impacts of society’s food choices that will have the most serious long term ramifications.

As a farmer I get this knowledge by understanding what it takes to sustainably produce milk and it doesn’t matter what food or fibre you produce the key principals are the same.

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There is so much more to farming than producing food and fibre. Dairy farmer Rob McIntosh shows teachers and students how he is looking after his scarce natural resources at Woodside Park, Berry

In the broader non farming community the end result of this disconnect from the food system is that those of us lucky enough to live in first world countries where food is bountiful, belong to a society that surveys show is only interested in price and convenience. This focus on price is not only devaluating our farmers and all the people and industries who support our farmers, it is devaluing our health and our scarce natural resources

Neilson research presented by Courtney Sullivan at the Australian Dairy Conference a couple of years ago showed that most Australians have little knowledge of where their food comes from, that they are aware of their ignorance and that, to put it bluntly, ignorance is bliss. Price was the main driver. Quality was taken for granted. Source here

So way back before the Archibull Prize when I first coined the Picasso Cows concept the aim was to use fun and innovative ways to teach kids where their food comes from. However most importantly it was to motivate them to think seriously about the environmental impacts of their food choices and how their health is affected by the way food is produced

And of course the long term legacy of sending our Young Farming Champions into schools to share their farm stories and experiences is we are reconnecting students with the experts – the farmers

Now I mention Picasso Cows because way back in 2007 there was a local dairy farmer called Rob McIntosh who signed up to host the schools involved in the on-farm visits in his area and he had phenomenal  impact.

In the following 6 years I have had a lot of media training and I don’t think Rob has had any!!!  Yet after seeing him interviewed on both the ABC and in schools recently he reminds me there are a very small proportion of people out there who just innately “get it”.

Authenticity and honesty are highly valued in communications and who better to tell the real farmer story than the ones who live it daily and can share genuine stories from their  farms.

Good communication is also about portraying consistent messages. More consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it was produced. Food safety, quality, animal care and the environment are of paramount importance in the 21st century and so they should be.

What I do want to reinforce to farmers everywhere, it has never been more important to get out there and tell your story. I for one can assure you that it is something you can learn to do and its very rewarding to have the confidence to talk to and get feedback from the people who buy our food and fibre.

Lets not forget farmers do a lot more than produce Food and Fibre, they help underpin the health, wealth and happiness of our great country and that most definitely is the greatest story ever told

Interesting thoughts on the big picture here Global agriculture towards 2050

History is remembered by how the historians write it

When I first started writing this blog just over 12 months ago it was (or so I thought) an opportunity to share with the community and provide insights into what happens on our dairy farm and the diverse ways beyond the farm gate I use to share that story and advocate for the people and the places behind the food we eat     .

Now as it turns out my readers are invariably much more interested in my agri-political commentary so these days my posts tend to be more about the challenges of farming and the supply chain that delivers the milk from my farm to your glass. That’s fine that’s what my readers want.

For me it has become a record of my life and the way I think and feel about a number of things. Its also an outlet and a hobby ( of which I have too few). Its cathartic. There are times when the web that strangles agriculture so frustrates me I want to scream so I sit down and I vent through my blog and I feel better and I can get on with life and and have a productive day. I love the feedback. Its like having a huge virtual support network  to get you through the tough times

It has other advantages too.  My father is an avid reader of my blog. As I am dreadful at keeping in touch with family and friends the blog helps make up for this flaw in my personality


I have been hassling my father for quite some time to write me some guest blog posts and share with my readers some insights into his life growing up on the dairy farm. Remember this is the man who constantly told me growing up “Lynne never learn to milk a cow” so obviously dairy farming wasn’t his idea of the ideal career pathway. I am not sure if he jinxed me but I did try once to milk cows and it was a disaster and I quickly learnt to stick at what I do best

Whilst I was in WA in November last year I took the opportunity to visit my father’s brother and his wife  – the gorgeous Uncle Dave and Aunty Ros,  In an effort to gain family solidarity in my drive to get my father blogging his family history I told my Aunt and Uncle of my plan and how I thought it would help greatly if we had some photos

I was very excited when Uncle Dave and Aunty Ros said they believe they have some photos going back to when my dad was just a youngster in boxes in their garage (mine are in boxes in my roof – that goodness for the new digital age) and they are unearthing them for me and then we can see if these ‘blasts from the past’  give my father the necessary inspiration

What they have unearthed to date is this


That’s me on the left with Uncle Dave on his wedding day. My cousin and I were flower girls. I was thrilled to see I was even a fashion icon way back then with pink glasses to match the pink flower girl dress.

BTW Dad you are on notice – its time to start tapping on that iPad