June 18, 2014
Walla Walla mixed farmer Shai Feuerherdt was keen to put his mechanical skills to good use at the Henty Machinery Field Days.
Shai went along with his mates to volunteer as a “labourer and gopher’’ in 2004 as a distraction from the drought.
Fast forward a decade and he has been appointed as the newest director of the Henty Machinery Field Days Co-operative Limited board.
The 35-year-old runs the 547ha property, Mountain View, with his wife Simone, son, Harrison, 7, and newborn Eliza Maree.
Shai was raised by his grandparents, Stan and Jean Feuerherdt, who bought Mountain View in 1986.
He worked as a motor mechanic in Albury for 10 years before returning to the farm upon Stan’s death in 2001.
The farm business was running 150 Angus cattle, 800 sheep and a small cropping program at the time.
Sheep were phased out, the cowherd built to 200 and cropping increased to 243ha of wheat and triticale.
“Stock numbers dwindled during the drought but we have bounced back in the last two years,’’ Mr Feuerherdt said.
“We have switched to Herefords for their temperament, and turn off the grassfed progeny at 450kg liveweight to feedlots.’’
This year, family has sown 162ha of Gem canola and 162ha of Spitfire and Beaufort wheat on 25cm row spacings.
A flock of 300 Border Leicester-Merino cross ewes are joined to Poll Dorset rams, with the lambs finished on lucerne to 24kg carcass weight and sold over-the-hooks.
Aside from his field day commitment, Mr Feuerherdt is captain of the Walla Walla fire brigade and a member of the local football club.
“I started at Henty driving equipment and unloading trucks using the forklifts – I had been working on the farm with my grandmother during the drought so the field days were a great outlet,’’ he said.
“I love meeting a wide variety of people and have undertaken training in traffic control, front end loader, forklift and first aid, gradually taking on more responsibility over the years.
When long serving director Len Hamson indicated he would retire, Mr Feuerherdt jumped at the opportunity to join the board.
“I see it as a good way to increase my business skills, create networks and challenge myself,’’ he said.
“Field days are thriving as people still want that tactile experience of being able to touch and see,’’ she said.
“They enjoy the social aspect – it is as much about the wheeling and dealing as it is about seeing people.’’
Mr Feuerherdt has fond memories attending the field days as a child with his siblings and cousins.
“We used to collect every showbag under the sun containing everything from great stickers to blow-up chainsaws and books of stuff I never read,’’ he said.
“We would unload all the bags on the bed at home and find out what we had.
“These days I can never leave the field days without buying something, even if it’s a syphon hose.
“Usually I’m comparing prices of hay equipment.
“The build up to Henty starts early in our house – Harry begins talking about it in June.’’