While working as a graphic designer in a Bendigo advertising agency, Michael Chalmers made the decision to return to the family farm.
“I loved my job and working with large government and industry clients, but my wife Felicia and I agreed that we wanted to raise our kids in the country.”
They joined the family business in 2006 and farm in partnership with Michael’s parents and his brother and sister-in-law.
The Chalmers farm seven dryland and irrigation properties across 8500 ha around Swan Hill in Victoria and into New South Wales. Their crops include wheat, lentils, rice, barley, oats, faba beans and field peas. They also raise Dorper sheep which, according to Michael, produce a great rack of lamb.
“We use diesel on-farm in a number of ways,” Michael says. We use diesel tractors with our laser graders to prepare paddocks for cropping and use diesel in planting, spraying and harvesting machinery. We use trucks to move grain out of the paddocks, diesel utes to check on the welfare of our sheep, and diesel pumps to move water around our irrigation layouts to six recycle points.
“Fuel is a major business input,” Michael says. “In 2014 we used almost 320 000 litres of diesel on farm, so in dollar terms, that’s a significant cost.” Michael is always looking for ways to save fuel.
“Fuel cost is a major consideration for us and we are always looking for ways to cut consumption.”
Apart from investing in new machinery with better fuel efficiency, the Chalmers have also incorporated on-farm practices designed to reduce fuel use.
“Through careful land forming of paddocks, extensive use of GPS equipment and zero tillage on dryland crop areas we can reduce the amount of time we spend in a paddock,” Michael says. “And the less time we spend in a paddock, the less fuel we use.”
Since coming back to the farm, Michael and Felicia have married and now have a young son.
“I am reasonably optimistic about the future of agriculture and I’m glad I came back to farming,” Michael says.
“But losing the fuel tax credits scheme would put extra pressure on families already facing rising business costs and stagnant farm gate prices.”