VIDEO: Rethus brothers doing it for themselves

By: Anna Game-Lopata, Video by: Guy Allen

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Having recently returned to the family farm in Victoria’s Wimmera, brothers Tim and Luke Rethus are intent on making it stand out from the crowd, Anna Game-Lopata reports.

Tim and Luke Rethus have a shed to die for. It’s jam-packed with all the latest and greatest machines and vehicles a farmer could want, from the new Case IH Rowtrac tracked tractor, to the 40 foot (12.2m) John Deere header and Daybreak disc seeder, the 120ft (36.6m) capable Kuhn spreader, Oztec chaser bin, two Scania B-double trucks, a JCB telehandler, the Case IH Patriot SPX4430 sprayer and to top it all off, a Crop Stalker high tech shielded sprayer from Sothern Precision.

Tim Rethus says each piece is part of where the brothers are going on their third generation broadacre farm near Horsham. They are putting it all to good use.

"We find as we get bigger acreages you’ve got to get your equipment working in the field more often," he explains.

"You can’t afford to stop for the truck at the end of the paddock when the harvester is full. That’s why we went to chaser bins, to maximise the time we’re actually harvesting. Soon enough we had to get bigger trucks, bigger chaser bins and we now have a 110 tonne ‘mothership’ at a central point where trucks load from the chaser bins to increase efficiency."

Tim and Luke preside over a 4,000 hectare operation, made up of three properties; one in a drier region about 35km north of Horsham, the main family holding which comprises about half the farm and another property about 20km south.

Tim says lentils make up about a quarter of their produce, along with smaller percentages of canola, broad beans, brown manure vetch or clover and export oaten hay. Wheat and barley make up the balance.

Lured by the promise of rain, Tim and Luke’s grandfather moved to the Wimmera region in the 1940s from Nhill about 74km north-west of Horsham.

When Tim’s father and uncle took over together they branched out from the traditional mixed farming sheep-wheat production system into a number of different types of crops including beans, canola, lentils and chickpeas.

In the 2000s the last of the sheep were finally sold to focus more on the more profitable cropping enterprise.

While Tim’s dad is still involved with the farm, his uncle has now retired and moved into town, making way for the next generation of brothers to lead the operation.

Like many farmers’ sons, Tim and Luke came home every summer for the harvest, and always planned to come back to the farm. But both began their careers as professionals in the city.

Tim did a double degree in chemical engineering and commerce at the University of Melbourne then spent 11 years in the oil industry while Luke worked as an engineer in telecommunications after completing university at Swinburne University of Technology. They have only just started their new lives in the last two years, which Tim says did present some challenges at first.

"In our old jobs, we dealt with departments and budgets but we weren’t running our own business," he recalls.

"So it took a little time to adapt and get a handle on the finances and the number of aspects we have to deal with on the farm.

"Rather than just running projects without much personal investment in them, now we’re talking about changing processes and getting processes to work. Initially you’re a bit hesitant trying to learn the ropes but as you hang out here longer you start to understand the process and contribute to improving the system.

"Being able to actually see the results of what you’ve done on the farm pretty quickly is exciting. Each year is a new game; you play one game then work out how you can improve on that game next year.

"In my old job everything was a continuation of established procedures with restricted ability to innovate and change."

Having grown up on the farm and done the summer jobs the brothers didn’t doubt they’d be useful when they came back.

"You’re not a helpless babe who can only steer a tractor," Tim laughs.

"You know where to go it’s just a matter of actually getting yourself established and feeling comfortable to push change."

Read about the Rethus brothers' inspiring story of going back to their roots and adopting new technology in an age-old industry in the upcoming issue of NewFarmMachinery magazine, on-sale October 6.

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