Biting Off More Of The Elephant Than I Can Chew

Wow! What a start to the year!

For those of you who read this,  here is the explanation.

About the middle of last year I had an epiphany.

I was listening to Dairy Connect CEO Mike Logan talk about the changing face of the business of dairy and what skills will be required for farms to grow or for employment on farms in the future.

I quickly relised I had none of these skills!

I can rear calves, with a 100% survival rate for over 2 two years.

I can pick ill health in cows and can easily figure out what I can treat and when to call the vet in.

I can fence. I can do manual work. I can think on my feet.

What I can’t do is read or prepare a profit and loss statement, prepare a budget, understand assets = liability + owners equity (aren’t assets owners equity????), in fact anything financial!

This is something all farmers should be able to do. It’s what helps you get loans, or refinance them. Or apply for finance for a new tractor. Or to apply for any assistance from Centrelink.

My next thought was, how do I get these skills?

I started looking at business degrees through universities. I decided the course fees might be a problem. As would the fact I’d need to do the course online and that would take years. I’d have to deal with people getting a bit antsy about my sitting in the house for at least four hours 6 days a week when there was both farm work and house work not getting done. Motivation would be an issue. No face to face contact would be a problem because I knew I’d need help! In fact the whole thing was nearly thrown in the too hard basket.

I also managed to loose sight of exactly what it was I was meant to be looking for. So I emailed Mike and asked him to clarify.

Not only did he clarify, he suggested where to start looking.


For those of you who don’t live in Australia, TaFE stands for Technical and Further Education. It is where those of us who didn’t get a good enough score for uni, are older, or are looking for skills rather than degrees can go to learn.

It is also a less expensive alternative for tertiary education.

I think I fit all these categories!

A lot of the courses you do can be counted as recognized prior learning for other courses at TAFE or even university. This could come in handy in the future.

I was still undecided when I was talking to the Dairy Youth coordinator for Dairy NSW, Jess Jennings. I was asking him about leadership and mentoring opportunities within Dairy NSW for my friend and fellow Blogger Lorna Sixsmith. I asked him how someone like myself could possibly get anywhere with my workload – to be honest I was feeling a little sorry for myself. I had bought the cake for my pity party. Jesse’s advice was that sometimes  you need to bite off more than you can chew, then chew like crazy!

So I hope you don’t mind me writing with my mouth full!

This is week three of both Certificate III and IV in Accounting. This is a full time course, four days a week for the first semester. That means 18 weeks of absolute chaos around here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings! The campus is 50km’s away on mostly narrow 80km/hour roads, which means I have to leave before the kids for school and this is a real stretch! I still have to get the calves fed before I go. We are currently feeding about 60 in five different spots. I think I’ve succeeded twice! Thank goodness for our kids, Dean and Jessica!!

Next semester the course is only one or two days a week.

And to add to the chaos, hubby has developed a heart issue, which has meant he is out of action for at least ten days. Then light duties for a while. He really isn’t coping, as those ‘Farmers Wives’ among you will understand.

I am grateful I have somewhere else to be!

So why am I pushing myself – and my family – this hard?

  1. Someone needs to understand how the financial side of this business is or isn’t succeeding
  2. To save money. Do you know how expensive accountants are?
  3. To show my girls you can do anything you put your mind to , no matter what stands in your way
  4. Because I can!
  5. The location – Tuncurry is beautiful!!

So far I’ve learnt about double entry accounting. We are doing this manually before we get to do it on MYOB so we understand how it works. This is about the gazillionth time I’ve had this explained to me and I admit I was worried I wouldn’t ever understand it! I’m not sure I do yet either! But I also have enough – ahem – maturity now to know I am eating an elephant, and the best way to do that is one bite at a time!

Argh! All these food analogies!!

One of the good things are I am meeting new people and reacquainting myself with my friend Karren, a fellow dairy farmer who I met when we first started dairying all those years ago. She isn’t doing the same course, or full time, but Monday and Thursdays we are in the same classroom and get to giggle like school kids!

It is also interesting to see the difference our lives make on how we look at things.

Our first few lessons together have been about workplace health and safety. We had a lot of fun when we were looking at how to deal with bullying and conflict in the workplace! Our answers didn’t go on the assessment paper!

This is the year we stop seeing this farm as a lifestyle choice and start treating it more as a business.

From now on, just covering the bills isn’t a option. We will start to make a profit.

And the first step in achieving this is to put my head down and my bum up and finish this course.

For those of you who still don’t understand double entry book keeping, here’s and amusing YouTube video I found that explains it all!

One thought on “Biting Off More Of The Elephant Than I Can Chew

  1. Well, thank you for enquiring for me – I was surprised to see my name in the middle of the post. Appreciate you thinking of me.

    Hats off to you and I hope you enjoy the interaction of college as well as learning lots. Hope your hubby is better soon too – having an ill husband isn’t good at the best of times, they’re not good patients!

    I have to admit that I am crap with filing and accounts but we have a great accountant that comes to the house every couple of months – he’s coming out soon to help us plan our cashflow for the year given the horrendous outlook for dairy prices. Accounts are one thing I’m happy to delegate but I tell myself that we can do everything else.

    Congrats and well done – good luck with it all 🙂


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