Farmer in Focus: Ash Burns


Can you give us a bit of background on yourself and your farm? 

I grew up on the farm in Tempy, about an hour north of Birchip. I returned to the farm towards the end of 2020 after studying and teaching in Adelaide for several years. I currently work there with my dad (Brendan), with part time help from my Uncle Dan, who is a shearer, and brother Lynden who is at BCG. We are predominantly cropping and sheep, but also run some cattle and alpacas. 

Tell me something interesting about your farm. Do you do anything differently? 

Our farm is quite similar to a lot of mixed farms in our area, except we are towards the smaller end of the scale. We run some cattle but there are a handful of farms around us who do this too, so it’s not too different. I guess our main difference is that Uncle Dan and I run a handful of alpacas as a bit of a side project/hobby. We are also unique in that we have three staff members who can work elsewhere throughout the year and return when it’s busy, so we are less likely to have to outsource staff. 

What has been happening on the farm recently? 

The same as probably a fair few other farmers at the moment after those rains: getting on top of summer spraying to ensure that everything is in top shape for cropping in a few months’ time. We also bought 800 wethers and cross lambs in August and November last year. We are starting to feedlot those ready for sale hopefully in the upcoming weeks/months.  

How do you manage your roles on the farm? 

Dad completes the majority of the spraying due to myself still being fairly green.  I keep an eye on the livestock to ensure there are no issues. Over harvest I drive the header, with Lynden and Dad driving the trucks. We still rotate a fair bit to prevent fatigue and burnout. Otherwise, there are no specific roles, we work together to get everything done.  

What are your plans for your farm in 2022? Will you be doing anything differently? 

We are leasing some additional land this year which enables us to try a few different things. The majority of our crops will be Beast and Commodus barley due to successful trials we had last year. We are also looking to add more wheat after cutting it down significantly over the last few years.  We will be bringing lentils back into our rotation this year after a few years off to go alongside lupins and vetch for our legume program as well. 

What are your long-term plans for the farm? Will you always want to work off farm? 

With the likelihood of running the farm alongside my brother, it would be good to branch out and create a more diverse enterprise to help drought proof the farm in the future. Increasing our efficiency with all aspects of our cropping and increasing stock numbers and variety are ways we plan to do this. Working off farm will always be a focus for us as it provides a second source of individual income which will allow more profits to be put back into the farm which will help it thrive. Having secondary employment also provides me with an outlet off farm, another focus, which helps to keep everything balanced.   

Were you always coming home to the farm? 

Growing up in Tempy, farming was always my number one and my intention as a career. Teaching however, was also a passion of mine and something I wanted to pursue. Teaching I feel compliments the schedule of farming quite well particularly during quiet times.  

What is the best advice you’ve been given as a farmer or in life? 

Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Do the things you can control well and the rest will come. This is not necessarily farming advice but I feel with the unpredictable nature of weather and other aspects of farming it fits in well.  

Who do you rely on for advice? 

Our agronomist Harry Brown and the crew at Elders Ouyen, neighbouring farmers and the internet can be helpful when reaching out when having issues. 

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