Wimmera Farmer presents a monthly feature that profiles young people in agriculture and looks at what drove them to a life on the land.
HORSHAM’S Dustin Cross always knew he would be a farmer.
But what the 19-year-old didn’t know, was that he would eventually split his time between cropping, running a thousand sheep and operating his own shearing business.
Farming runs in the Cross family.
Dustin’s mum came from a farm at Quantong and his parents bought a property just outside Horsham when he was 18 months old.
“I was always interested in farming, I tried building once, but I didn’t really enjoy it,” he said.
Dustin learnt to shear when he was 15. Soon after, he did work experience at a Goroke sheep stud.
“I’ve been there ever since,” he said.
Last year, Dustin started working there full time and he is also doing his Certificate IV in Agriculture.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors and farming is always what I wanted to do,” he said.
“There are so many pathways with agriculture – I didn’t want to get into something and do it for the rest of my life.
“But with agriculture there are different options like stock or agronomy.
“I love my job – I don’t feel like it’s work.”
Dustin said once he decided that farming was for him, he couldn’t see any other path in life.
“Why would I want to work with tools when I could sit on a tractor?” he said.
Dustin works at Janmac Poll Dorset stud at Goroke.
“We sell stud rams and have just over 3000 acres,” he said.
The stud runs sheep and has crops. “It’s all self replacing stock and we sell stud rams each year in October,” Dustin said.
“It’s an 18 months process from when a lamb is born, then into marking and shearing.
“We do iron muscle depth tests so we can track how much they have grown.
“In 18 months we shear the rams three times.”
Dustin said he enjoyed working in the Goroke community.
“If you need something done, there is plenty of people to lend a hand,” he said.
Time in the shearing shed
“I LOVE shearing. I hated it at the start, but I knew I had to learn to secure a job on a farm,” Dustin said.
“It’s a great trade to have.”
Dustin learnt to shear at Longerenong College – he walked out of his first lesson thinking he was pretty good at it. His dad then asked him to shear 11 sheep and it took him two days.
“I was in so much pain after it too,” he said.
“I’ve improved a bit over the past few years, but I’m more of a clean shearer than a quick shearer.
“It’s a skill that once you learn, you never forget.”
Dustin said he was keen to get into show shearing and he had already entered a few competitions.
“I entered a quick shear competition once and came second out of two people,” he said. “Shearing is like a drug, people say they hate it but its’s so satisfying.
“It’s really good to look back at the end of the day and see all the sheep shorn.
“It takes a lot of hard work though, and you have to have good ethic and a good mental mind, because when your back is hurting and the hand pieces is getting hot and you look up and see how many more sheep to go, you have to keep going.”
“Why would I want to work with tools when I could sit on a tractor?”Dustin Cross
Dustin went from farmer to entrepreneur about 18 months ago, when he started a mobile shearing business.
He started the business as soon as he was old enough to drive. “My dad’s mate had a few sheep that I used to shear each year,” he said.
“Then there was a few more sheep that I would help with and I realised there was lots of little mobs of sheep around.”
Dustin designed a set up for mobile shearing that can attach to his ute.
“I used to drive around and I would find sheep that haven’t been shorn in a few years and find out who owned them.
“I would then ring them up and ask if I could shear them. It just kicked off from there.”
The job is seasonal, weekend work, mostly for hobby farmers.
“It’s easy for the client, they don’t have to do anything besides penning the sheep up,” he said.
“I do everything from drenching to trimming their feet. I also give people advice on how to take care of their sheep.”
The word soon spread about the business.
“Some weekends I could earn $100, other times it’s more than $300, which is a bonus for a struggling apprentice,” Dustin said.
“Shearing goes with the season so at the moment it’s dead, but towards spring, when lamb shearing starts, everyone is flat out.
“Mobile shearing is a niche market and I can either give the client the wool or take the wool off their hands.”
NEXT year, Dustin will do an Advanced Diploma of Agriculture at Longerenong College.
“Eventually I want to do something with stock, maybe even go up north,” he said.
“I’m happy with how things are going for now.”
- Do you know a young person in agriculture who has a story worth telling? Email email@example.com.