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TAS Country : November 18th 2010
16 Friday, Novem This land Beating heart of M THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: The Moogara Me The passage of time has not been kind to the tiny town of Moogara, but one family is making sure the area's heart keeps beating, writes Brian Ward FOUR GENERATIONS: Matriarch Joan Fenton, right, with her great granddaughter Maddison, son Neville, left, and grandson Nick. CHAROLAIS CHARMERS: Nick, left, and Neville Fenton get organised for a show. MOOGARA Memorial Hall is one of the only reminders of what used to be a bustling little township. The school that once stood behind the hall is now gone, along with most of the population that used to occupy the Derwent Valley farmland. More than 50 years ago, on any weekday morning you would have found about 40 local children on their way to the Moogara school, but none of their friendly faces can be seen in the township these days -- except one. Neville Fenton was raised at Moogara, and though he now lives at Bushy Park, the Charolais breeder still feels most at home on the 182ha cattle farm where he grew up. ''I spend as much time down here as possible,'' Neville said. ''It's still very much my home.'' His mother, Joan, still resides on the property, but the farm is run by Neville, in partnership with his brother Darryl, since their father, Jim, died last year. ''We just took it over from Dad, and my brother's in partnership with me,'' Neville said. The Fentons have lived in the Derwent Valley for six generations, and the past three have been Charolais breeders. They started breeding Charolais in 1976 after Neville's father, Jim, came home and announced that he'd bought two of the French breed. ''He went to one of the early breeders that dispersed them, and he came home that night and said 'I've just bought two Charolais heifers','' Neville said. ''We went down to Granton, with a little Hilux ute, with a tiny, low tray on it, and we brought them home.'' The Charolais only became available in Tasmania in the early 1970s, so the Fentons farmed a few different breeds before that. ''Before that we just used to run anything,'' Neville said. ''Then he [Jim] just had this vision back in '76 that we were going to go into Charolais.'' After a few early hiccups, Jim added a few more heifers to the first two, but it wasn't until 1980 that the Fentons had their first pure-bred on the farm. ''Jim bought a few more from different people, because we were trying to breed up from scratch,'' Neville said. ''But we were losing the battle, so we bought some percentage blood cattle and we went from there. ''In about 1980, we got our first pure- bred on the ground and in the following year we started our show career.'' Neville is well-versed in Charolais breeding, having worked five years for the Charolais society on the mainland, learning the secrets of the trade. ''It was a learning experience,'' he said. ''You get in there with the top people in Australia, like the Bonfields from Queensland -- they're probably number one in Australia. ''You just learn off what they do.'' Neville said those he worked with on the mainland were great people who were happy to share their knowledge. ''If they came here and you were doing something wrong -- like breeding wrong -- they are the type of people who would take you aside and correct you,'' he said. ''A lot of people wouldn't tell you. ''They'd go away and then they'd tell someone else 'Oh, he's doing the wrong thing'.'' The Fentons have achieved a fair amount of success showing Charolais, the highlight being when they took out Supreme Exhibit at the Royal Hobart Show in 2006. But Neville is very modest about their accomplishments. ''We've won a little bit,'' he said. ''The first actual cow we bred won Interbreed at the Hobart Show in '85. ''At that time we were competing against some really good Charolais in Tasmania.'' Neville said they had enjoyed great success at smaller shows. ''At little shows we've won heaps . . . at Brighton we've won eight of the last nine supremes,'' he said. But showing isn't the major motivation for the Fentons. ''That's probably why we do all right one year at the show and the next we don't,'' Neville said. ''One year we prepare and the next year we lose interest but we still go, and our cattle are not quite ready for the show.'' Like many small Tasmanian farmers, Neville's business is mostly self-sufficient -- done more out of passion than to make any profit. These days he just wants to keep the farm alive.
November 11th 2010
November 25th 2010