Farmer in Focus: Lachy McClelland

Demi Taylor

We recently caught up with fifth generation farmer, Lachy McClelland. Despite being flat-out sowing at the time of this interview, Lachy still took time out to share his family’s rich heritage of farming just 15km east of Woomelang, and share what the season ahead looks like for them.

Tell us about yourself?

I grew up in the small community of Woomelang where our family farm is situated. I completed primary school at Woomelang Group School and high school at Tyrrell College until year 11. After year 11, I decided to go straight onto the family farm whilst also completing my Cert II in Ag at Longerenong Ag College. Farming has always been my dream, so completing Year 12 wasn’t something I felt I needed to do.

My family has a strong passion for travelling and camping, so as a young fella I was lucky enough to travel all around the country and see some of the beautiful places we have here in Australia. A lot of my spare time is spent racing dirt bikes, playing football for the Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers, and spending time with mates and family.

Tell us about your farm?

Our family farm is situated 15 km East of Woomelang and runs from Willangie to Watchupga. We own 2,500 hectares and are strictly cropping only.

I am the 5th generation to be farming the McClelland family farm ‘Fairview’, which was first settled in 1882! We grow wheat, barley, lentils, canola as well as vetch and oaten hay (depending on rotations and seasonal conditions).

Myself, my father Tim and my mother Rachael run the farm together. Dad and I have always had a great relationship and would consider ourselves mates more than business partners. We also have family come home to help out at the busy times, such as cropping and harvest.

What has been happening on farm recently?

Considerable amounts of rain over the early months of the year kept us very busy with summer spraying. Since then, it’s been relatively dry and we’ve stayed busy carting grain from the 2023 season, renovating sprayer wheels tracks, removing fences, and completing maintenance required on the seeder for the season ahead.

We are well into our cropping program now and will keep chipping away over the next few weeks. We plan to be finished by the end of May, although the weather forecast for the next few weeks isn’t overly promising!

What were your biggest challenges in 2023? How are you hoping to overcome these this year?

The 2023 season held many challenges for us. At the back end of 2022, we had a pretty big hailstorm hit the majority of our farm. It wiped out a fair amount of crop and left us with a lot of grain and residue on the ground. Prior to sowing in 2023, we had to change our approach quite a bit to combat the massive amount of self-sown grain that had germinated from the hailstorm.

Although yields were above average, we didn’t have a lot of growing season rain which meant time of application for spraying and top dressing were crucial.

What are your plans for your farm in 2024 and onwards? Do you plan to do anything differently?

We are always looking to grow and become more efficient in what we do. This year, we’ve invested in more on-farm grain storage to improve our grain handling at harvest time and give us more flexibility when marketing grain. I’m always looking for ways to decrease our expense on inputs, so keeping up with the times and growth of technology and machinery is something we will follow closely.

Drought is an inevitable aspect of the climate we farm in. How is your farm business preparing for future droughts, or potential financial shocks within the business?

Farming in the Mallee, having a drought, or low rainfall years are inevitable and something that plays on everyone’s mind. Over the last few years, we’ve been lucky enough to have successful seasons, making the most of that and drought proofing our business has been crucial. We run a no-till operation and I believe in the drier years it really stands out and proves why we do it. Working closely with our agronomist Matt Bissett from Exceed Ag. Over the last few years, we’ve been able to invest in assets outside of farming which I believe will hold us in good stead should we face a drought.

The Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub is a state-wide collaboration of 10 organisations.  

Led by the University of Melbourne and with headquarters at UM’s Dookie Campus, the Vic Hub is a Partnership between five farming organisations (Birchip Cropping Group, Food & Fibre Gippsland, Mallee Regional Innovation Centre, Riverine Plains and Southern Farming Systems), four universities (UM, Deakin, Federation and La Trobe), and the State Government (through Agriculture Victoria).  

One of eight hubs established nationally under the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund (FDF), the Vic Hub works to enhance the drought preparedness and resilience of Victoria’s agricultural industries, the environment and regional communities, encompassing broader agricultural innovation. Engaging with a range of industry and community stakeholders, the Vic Hub links research with community needs for sustainable outcomes. 

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