MY FARMING FAMILY: A one hundred year dairy dynasty

2014 marks the International Year of the Farming Family. 

Each day we have contact with a farmer, though we may not realise it. 

Through the milk we enjoy on our breakfast, the meat we have for dinner, to the clothes we wear, a farmer has had something to do with our daily lives. 

This year we honour our farming families across the Central West and Western NSW, bringing you their stories in the paper and online each week. 

The Alley family

This year, the Alley family will celebrate 100 years of dairy farming and as Ian Alley says “some people are destined to be dairy farmers.”

The dynasty started with three cows owned by Ian’s grandfather Reg Alley who lived in the Taree area and milked his first Jersey in 1914. 

The small dairy bloomed to 30 cattle by 1920 and in 1997 when the third generation of Alleys moved from the coast to Forbes, they brought their 100 head herd with them to Riverie. 

“I thought we could do better on lower rainfall, in a dryer and sweeter environment,” Ian said. 

The risk paid off, and in the first year Ian’s cows were producing four litres more of milk per cow per day.

In 2007, the family expanded again when Ian’s eldest son Anthony and his young family bought adjacent property Walla Walla, and together father and son built the dairy farm. 

The adjoining properties were once owned by two brothers who returned from World War II after fighting in Walla Walla and Riverie and serendipitously the two farms are once again managed by two brothers.

Anthony runs 150 dairy cows on Walla Walla and 1.2km away his brother Clayton, milks 160 dairy cows on Riverie, both with the help of their dad who at 60 is still “trying to retire.”

Twice a day, 365 days a year the Alley’s Friesian, Jersey and crossbred cows are milked. 

The work starts at around 4am, when the mob are walked to the dairy.

Mechanical milking machines empty their udders and afterwards they are lead back, a process that is then repeated that afternoon. 

The job is demanding and Ian recalls working non-stop for five years, a total of 3650 milkings. 

Both generations have seen their challenges and changes. 

For Anthony, the supermarket milk price war almost broke them.

“Overnight we had to ship 25 cows out, 13 cents a litre is just not viable.”

For father Ian, the drought was longwinded. 

“You can never be prepared for eight years of drought… but we got by.”

Ian says these challenges have taught the Alley’s how to adapt and stay positive.

“I said this years ago and I stand by it- if you do not have a positive attitude you may as well not be in the industry. There’s no room for negativity.”

“Sometimes things stand out and send you in a direction you can’t control.” 

“Some people are destined to be dairy farmers,” he said. 

The family circle might keep turning with Anthony’s 13-year-old daughter Gabby. 

When she was just three, Gabby said something that hinted dairy farming could be hereditary in the Alley family. 

“One day this farm and all of these cows will be mine,” she said.

Now 13, Gabby helps her dad on weekends and is currently making a short video, documenting each stage of dairy production which she will show at the Forbes Food Revolution Day. 

The future of the dairy industry looks bright.

Do you know a farming family who would like to be featured in our series email david.neil@fairfaxmedia.com.au

More farming families

* LITHGOW: A family's farming success story

* LIGHTNING RIDGE: Stan Dugan 

BATHURST: Dan and Steve Owens 

* DUBBO: Cherie and Matthew Coddington 

* PARKES: Neil and Alison Westcott and Cliff and Helen Westcott

* DUNEDOO: The Armstrong Family

* COWRA: Charlie and Christine Galea

* ORANGE: Mick West

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