Operation: Sheep and beef cattle
GOOD old-fashioned hard work, a family-first attitude and a willingness to move with the winds of farming industry change are the driving forces behind the Galpin family's burgeoning stud and commercial livestock enterprise Warrawindi Farms, centred around Penola in the state's Lower South East.
The pride and passion the family have in what they do is evident when arriving at David and Alison Galpin's gateway, with large, colourful advertising boards displaying their Limousin beef cattle stud and the five sheep breeds, which they run on their 1450 hectares.
Along with the Limousin stud, the property is home to four sheep studs - Poll Dorsets, Suffolks, Border Leicesters and East Friesians - a commercial crossbred cow herd consisting of predominantly Angus and Murray Grey females, with a sprinkling of Shorthorns and Poll Herefords, for vealer production and Merino and crossbred ewes for prime lamb production.
Up to 500 rams, 2500 prime lambs, 40 bulls and 150 vealers are sold annually from the fast-growing enterprise.
The Galpin family itself is fast growing, with six clocks on the dining room wall - one for each of David and Alison's six adult children ranging in age from their early 20s to early 30s.
The eldest three are daughters Kimberley, Teegan and Aimee, followed by sons Jordan, Mason and Bentley.
A large collection of family photos on display in the same room include David and Alison's nine grandchildren - Addison, Sophie, Mia, Oscar, Ruby, Spencer, Imogen, Isla and Ellis.
Much of the family are heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of Warrawindi and farming runs in their blood, with David heading up the team, Jordan running the Suffolk stud and Mason running the Border Leicester stud.
Teegan works on another farm, but lives on a Warrawindi property and helps out with feeding, water checks and other seasonal tasks.
Kimberley is married to Tony Wilson and they run his family farm at Joanna, near Naracoorte, about a half-hour drive away.
Son-in-law Tom Lepley - who is married to youngest daughter Aimee - also works at Warrawindi alongside Ben Brooksby, a young man well known in agricultural circles as The Naked Farmer, a shining advocate for mental health awareness.
The youngest of the brood, son Bentley, is studying in Adelaide.
"If the kids weren't interested in farming we would probably have a small farm here and just be running it ourselves," David added.
"They're the ones that have given us the inspiration and desire to give them the opportunity to farm.
"I had the opportunity and we're doing the same. For the last four or five years we've borrowed as much money as we can to expand so at the moment there's about seven incomes coming into the farm."
Mason said farm life was what he and his siblings had always been surrounded by.
"I grew up involved in farming and it's what we knew, so I always wanted to be back on the farm," he said.
Mason says the family all gets along well - "most of the time", Alison adds with a smile.
"The kids (the youngest generation) are always around helping out too so it's a lot of fun," Mason said.
A storied history
The Galpin name has a long association with the Penola region.
David's great-grandfather Henry Galpin - one of 14 siblings - was born in Allendale East near Mount Gambier and bought the original farm block south east of Penola in the 1930s.
He was followed by David's grandfather Arthur and then Dean, who still lives on and runs the original 160ha farm with his wife Joan. Both Dean and Joan are extremely active members of the local community, even in their early eighties.
Alison lived at Glenburnie, near Mount Gambier, for the first six months of her life before moving to Penola.
"We had a farm down there and my parents and grandparents sold that and moved just north of Penola on a dairy farm," she said.
"I grew up on a dairy farm out there and met David at school and the rest is history."
Alison's parents Ron and Janet Hutchesson now reside just outside of Penola on a small farmlet.
David says he always knew he was destined for a life on the farm.
"I can remember going with Dad at shearing time, shifting sheep, and hopping on the tractor when we were re-seeding paddocks," he said.
"Back then there was a bit of land clearing happening and we'd always be stick picking and all of the good jobs.
"I can remember getting up at daylight and going rabbit-trapping with my grandfather.
"He was a woolclasser and rabbit trapper and used to sell the meat. They also used to strip a lot of wattle bark, bundle it up and sell that because the sap was taken out for tanning hides."
David left school at 15 to work on the family farm, also partaking in some shearing, truck-driving and farm work elsewhere.
While the family have primarily had a focus on sheep production - they are the ones that pay the bills, according to the family - David has witnessed and driven plenty of change.
A willingness to shift their operation to suit the whims of industry demand has served the Galpin family well. Sitting idle is not in their DNA.
"Over time in farming things change, so you have to change with it," David said.
"My grandfather used to run Merino wethers, then my father had Corriedale sheep, then we moved into the stud side of things and that has been constantly evolving.
"The boys might be doing something completely different in 10 or 20 years' time."
Success and growth have come on the back of hard work and the willingness to have a go at something different, as the family discuss the old two-stand shearing shed and wooden cattle yards that have been replaced with an impressive arrangement of covered yards, machinery sheds and a selling complex.
The ever-changing routine is one of many aspects David loves about the industry.
Apart from a three-week stint at a local vineyard during vintage, he has never experienced the typical nine-to-five workday.
"We don't start work at nine o'clock in the morning and knock off at five, we're at work the whole time," he said.
"The boys were loading lambs at five o'clock this morning and I was checking a pivot at eight o'clock last night, so it's just what we do."
"It's our life.
"The bonus is being able to do it with your family - it doesn't get much better than that."
Looking after animals, the process of breeding and finding the right genetics to produce their desired product, and the constant learnings are some of the most enjoyable factors the family get from farming.
"You're always learning about something," David said.
"No year is exactly the same as the last so farming is not regimental - you don't do the exact same jobs or tasks at the same time each year as it varies a bit with the seasons."
Making it pay
The Galpins' properties straddle the SA-Vic border, with about 600ha on the SA side and 850ha on the Vic side.
The average annual rainfall in the region is about 650 millimetres, and soils range from deep sands and loam to black peat and sandy limestone flats.
When asked about what makes the region good farming country, David said it was 'safe'.
"We're 100 kilometres from the coast and my grandfather always said 'stick within 100km of the coast'," he said.
"We've got reliable rainfall and underground water so we're pretty secure. You don't make a fortune but you've got an income every year."
The ownership transition of Warrawindi from Dean and Joan to David and Alison began in the mid-2000s.
On the commercial side of their enterprise, Warrawindi run 500 Merino ewes and 2000 crossbred ewes for prime lamb production, as well as a 150-head commercial crossbred cow herd for vealer production.
The extensive stud operation consists of 900 Poll Dorset stud ewes, 500 East Friesian and East Friesian-Border Leicester stud ewes, and 100 Border Leicester and 100 Suffolk stud ewes.
The Limousin stud, founded in 1989, was David's original passion but demand has waned of late with many cattle producers moving towards Angus herds.
"It's sad to put all that time and effort into getting it there - two years ago we had the best Limousin sale average in Australia, but now we're thinking about changing direction," he said.
"But that's life. You can either sit back and whinge about it or move on."
Giving something new a try has never been a problem for the family - their Poll Dorset flock number was bought in 2004, one which had been a successful stud for the previous 40 years.
They bought out Haven Park Poll Dorsets 12 months ago, making it their largest stud by far.
Jordan's Warra-J Suffolk stud was established in 2012, starting with a range of bloodlines including Southrose, Burwood, Allendale and Oakwood.
In 2014, Mason established Warra-M Border Leicesters, sourcing genetics from studs including Wattle Farms, Johno's and Coolawang.
While Warrawindi had dabbled with East Friesians in the past - putting rams over a Corriedale flock - the breed was incorporated into the growing stud conglomerate with the purchase of an East Friesian stud from the Foster family, Haven Park.
Their annual ram sale has become a massive day on the calendar. In their most recent sale - a four-breed bonanza in October - they offered 342 rams and sold 303.
The sale gave David good reason to reflect on his family's journey and its recent growth. He estimates the business has tripled in the past several years with the addition of three sheep studs.
"I was asked last year after the ram sale did I ever think I'd get to selling 300 rams in a half a million dollar sale and I thought yes, it was something I'd always aspired to, I suppose," he said.
"When I look back on it, everything we've done has been working towards this point. It hasn't just happened, it has been the dream, or the plan, for a long time.
"We've had luck and opportunities along the way. I remember being told to take every opportunity you can get and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but it's no good sitting back and waiting for something to happen, because generally it doesn't."
While presentation is important to the Galpins, their ultimate focus in the stud game is on performance out in the paddock.
Their rams are run under commercial conditions and they have a large client base of repeat customers.
"I get the most satisfaction out of clients telling me how much they've made from their progeny," David said.
"That is the ultimate reward because then you know you're on the right track.
"My idea is I want these animals to be tested under commercial conditions so when they go out they actually improve, they don't fall backwards."
Show ring regulars
The Galpin family have become familiar faces at a variety of shows, first parading their Limousin bulls in 2007 for stud exposure and to market their product.
It has become much more than that for the family than that, making friends and contacts across Australia and overseas.
Mason, proclaimed by Alison as the show leader, said they have shown as far and wide as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Rockhampton, Qld, as well as at local shows including Penola, Naracoorte, Mount Gambier, Millicent and Casterton, Vic.
"We've created a lot of contacts through doing it and it's about putting a face to the name," Mason said.
"Once you get to talk to people, you find out what they're looking for," David said.
"It's easy for us to breed what we think everyone should need but once you talk to people they say exactly what they're after or what they're heading towards, so it gives us an idea of where we need to be going."
Planning the next steps
With six children and nine grandchildren, David and Alison's thoughts have turned to the next phase of their farming life - where their next goals lay and the task of succession planning.
"The business, land-wise, has grown and the business itself has almost tripled in the last few years with the new sheep studs," David said.
"It's about finding the top of the mountain from here, I suppose. We don't know how far we can take it - we're still trying to find where that top is in the market."
Whatever or wherever the top of that mountain is, the Galpin name is destined to live on for a long time at Penola.
"The next phase we've just started is our succession planning - where the business is going to be in 10 or 20 years," David said.
"I've had my focus and passion on what I've wanted to achieve and do and now it's up to the next generation on where they want to head."
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