Fay and Darryl Sinclair: Sharing their secrets to long-term success

When it comes to farm life, Stony Creek residents Fay and Darryl Sinclair know what it takes to find success in the long term.

Fay and Darryl Sinclair standing at their Stony Creek farm

Having started their dairy farming careers in 1986, they have navigated the long hours and continually changing conditions for over 35 years and understand the struggles and stress that come with the industry.

Whilst long hours and seven day working weeks are part of the territory when starting out in dairying, Fay and Darryl feel strongly about the importance of connecting with other dairy farmers and maintaining a social life outside of farming as much as possible.

Discussion groups serve as a great resource of information, social connection, and provide farmers with a sense of community.

For those starting out in the industry, Fay believes that the “number one priority is to be involved in a discussion group of some sort… you’re always going to learn by going to someone else’s farm and being involved with other people.”

The unexpected nature of the dairy industry can make long term planning difficult, but Darryl’s biggest piece of advice for those in the early stages of dairying is to not stress. “Just look after the things you can control… your pastures, your cows.”

Being flexible and adapting to changing conditions is key to keeping stress levels down, and remembering that whatever concerns you currently have, “whoever you talk to has got the same problems.”

Discussion groups again can help ease some of the stress when the going gets tough. They allow for an exchanging of ideas and solidarity during challenging times.

As busy as the days are, Fay believes it is imperative to take the time to leave the farm and visit with those who are experiencing similar conditions: “Problem solving as you’re walking around on the farms with the other people in the group is the best experience… It then puts the perspective that it’s not only you, and I think that’s a really important thing of being out and about that you can hear it’s not only you.”

For Fay and Darryl, taking the time to prepare a business plan is also a key factor of success when it comes to growing the business, but it’s important to remain open to change and be prepared to adapt timelines as your day-to-day plans change.

Almost three years ago Fay and Darryl employed a share farmer who currently owns 50% of the farm’s 300 cows. This transition to share farming has been part of the Sinclair’s business plan for the last 10 years.

It’s a succession plan that allows Fay and Darryl to remain the owners of their 203-hectare property, and their share farmer to gradually purchase the remaining 50% of cows on the Sinclair’s farm.

The partnership is a work in progress, with monthly meetings a crucial part of the smooth running of the farm, and yearly meetings with a consultant to go over any changes or concerns.

Dairy farming is an industry geared towards longevity and patience. With the unpredictable nature of weather conditions and milk prices, amongst a myriad of other uncontrollable factors, a slow and steady approach can be best.

Having made five-year plans for their business for the last 20 years, Darryl believes that smaller steps yield greater results.

For those starting out in the industry, Darryl encourages a low stress approach and to roll with the punches: “There’s always tomorrow… and if you’ve got a plan and it’s not quite working, extend the timeframe of your plan. Your plans will come through, just don’t rush them.

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