Victorian farmers Dave and Connie Northey emerged from devastating bushfires with a new direction for their farm.

They say every cloud has a silver lining. But for cattle farmers Dave and Connie Northey and their young family, it was initially hard to see any positives in bushfires that raged across their north-eastern Victorian property in the summer of 2007. Fortunately their house, protected by a “wall of water” pumped from nearby tanks and dams escaped the fire.

“But apart from that, anything that wasn’t concrete was razed to the ground,” Connie recalls. “Our fences were all gone, all silage and hay was burned and of course there was no grass. We let our cattle go as the fire approached so they bolted down the road to safety. But with nothing to feed them on after the fire we had little choice but to sell them at a loss. We were very lucky to have assistance from inmates from Beechworth Correctional Centre with rebuilding our fences. If it weren’t for them we would probably still be fencing.”

Starting over almost from scratch gave Dave and Connie and their children Sarah, 16, Alice, 14, Jack, 13, and Ben, 11, the opportunity to rethink their future. Their families had a long history as cattle, hops and tobacco farmers in Benalla shire and their attachment to the small settlement of Myrrhee, southeast of Wangaratta was a given. Assessing their clean slate, they cast around for possible diversifications and decided on boer goats.

The Northeys now have a herd of somewhere between 450 to 500 does. They also have a small stud with two bucks and 20 registered does. Their animals are slaughtered at a local abattoir and packaged via a local butcher, but the Northeys are hands-on in the shop to ensure their product is handled to precisely their exacting standards. They blend their own sausage mixes to ensure quality control and decided on direct marketing to build better relationships with their growing customer base.

This story was originally published in the May/ June 2013  issue of Australian Country. Order the back issue here.

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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass