From conventional dairy to organic success: Meet the family raising 10 children and 520 cows!

Life is busy for most of us but spare a thought for this couple from Sunnyside Tasmania.

They run a successful dairy while raising nine children, with number 10 on the way! Given that work load, it would have been easier not to completely overhaul the business from a conventional dairy to a large-scale organic operation, that has also radically progressed to once a day milking.

So, why do it? They bought a block of land with all sorts of problems that lead to some health issues with the cows. The solution ended up being an accidental transition to organic production.

Accidentally organic

Mark and Roslyn Lambert’s business transformation may have been accidental, but it’s taken about a decade to achieve. As Mark was leaving school, the family purchased another piece of land next door to expand their operation.

Problems with the cows quickly followed, including milk fever. Unhappy with the advice he received that focussed on managing the issue, rather than preventing it, he started to look elsewhere. The trail lead back to soil health, especially the pH.

I ended up applying a lot of dolomite and a lot of lime to the farm, and that problem disappeared in three years.

That was just the beginning for the Lamberts as Mark became fascinated by biological farming. They decided to embark on an organic certification process.

“There were dramatic changes. We noticed we had clover in the paddocks again. At the same time, we started adding seaweed and sea salt to the cows’ grain. We noticed a massive increase in the health of the cattle,” Mark explains.

Fruit salad for cows

He describes the cows’ diet now as a “fruit salad mix”. From running 80 cows, Mark now has 520, with plans to add another 80 next season. “In this whole path we’ve been on, we’ve been growing more grass organically now than what we ever used to grow conventionally.”

From next season, we won’t be buying in any hay or grain. They’ll be 100% fed off our farm.

Far from stopping there, the Lamberts embarked on another radical change – once a day milking. “I highly recommend once a day milking. It’s fantastic for family. Profitability is a little bit less but it’s not too dissimilar. The pressure is off! The cows seem to love it.”

Mark has observed the change has lead to more relaxed cows with better weight gain.

“All my life I’ve done things a bit different and been outside of the crowd. I’ve been doing my own thing in no man’s land for 10 or 15 years. I’ve come out of it and find myself almost at the forefront of where people want to be. It’s very weird when this sort of farming has been ostracised for many years.”

Mark now regularly shows other farmers and the Department of Agriculture around his property to share his knowledge. He says the interest from others in the industry has been the most unexpected thing to happen in his career.

The changes are quite visible to visitors. “You can see the outline of our farm on a satellite image. It stands out as being so much greener around the outside. It’s quite amazing.”

Mark loves a challenge, and sees himself solving problems for others in the future in an advisory role. It’ll be a busy year ahead for the soon-to-be father of 10.

Hear more stories just like the Lamberts’ by subscribing to the Telling Our Story podcast on iTunes (or wherever you listen to podcasts) and follow podcast host Angie Asimus on Instagram for more updates.

Angie Asimus

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