Steve Hawken looks at the construction of a deep straw compost barn on his Echuca dairy farm as an investment in the future of his business.
Son Jack, 18, was putting filters together in preparation for milking.
His brother Harry, 14, was bringing in the cows with his grandfather.
Parents Evan and Kylie were holidaying in Adelaide.
When Jack saw unfamiliar car pull up near the yards, it wasn’t surprising.
The farm is on a busy road, and tourists often pull in and ask to see the cows or check for directions.
“A lady drove up in a Subaru. I thought she might have been lost,” Jack says.
“She came and said ‘I was wondering, how do you treat your cows?” and I said ‘We treat them good, why?’.
‘I reckon dairy farmers don’t treat them right, they are forced to get milked,’ the visitor said.
“And I said ‘Well, they get treated better than many humans, they get fed five times a day and they get to walk home freely’.”
The woman told Jack she didn’t believe him, to which Jack replied: “Well I’ve told you what we do, and if you don’t believe me, you can go and stick a carrot up your arse!”
The woman then hopped in the car and drove off.
Jack’s father Evan says he’s proud of the way his son handled the situation.
“It didn’t really bother him, nothing really bothers Jack,” he says.
But Evan says he’s disappointed the woman has the wrong ideas about dairy farming.
“You’d prefer to have people come in and see the cows and get the right facts. And actually see how they are treated instead of rely on gossip that goes on in the media.”
He’s thankful it didn’t happen to someone else.
“It could have been different if the farmer had had a bad day, with the ways things are.”
Evan says it hasn’t rattled the family too much, but they may purchase additional security, such as cameras, which they were considering anyway.
“We don’t want to stop people coming on farm if they are curious,” Evan said. “But it does shock you a bit.”
A spokeswoman for peak lobby group Australian Dairy Farmers said it encouraged farmers to open their farms to their local community, as part of their aim to be open and transparent on animal health and welfare.
She said ADF has an ongoing dialogue with animal welfare groups including the RSPCA, Animals Australia, Voiceless and others.
“We may have different opinions on some issues, but there are also many areas where we agree.”
She said the Dairy Australia website was a good resource for farmers and consumers looking for more information.