Goulburn chaff cutter John Fife. GOULBURN chaff cutter John Fife was quietly watching television one evening when he unexpectedly became a subject on national television.
The program was the ‘90s television favourite, Burke’s Backyard, and Don Burke was comparing a range of feed mixes for horses.
Among a range of other established brands, Burke selected his hands-down favourite feed mix – a relatively unknown brand created by a certain John Fife of Goulburn.
Sitting in front of the television that night, John couldn’t believe his eyes as his own brand of chaff mix was broadcast across national television.
After that invaluable and independent endorsement by Burke, John immediately began to receive calls from across Australia from people inquiring about that special feed mix.
It was a boost for business, and it was exposure, John says, that traditional advertising couldn’t buy.
This is just one of many stories John Fife can recall from his career as a chaff cutter.
It’s a career that has its origins when John was just a schoolboy, and one that essentially ends later this month when his valuable chaff cutting equipment, as well as a host of other farm machinery accumulated through the years, goes under the hammer at a clearing sale.
John feels it is time to wrap up his business, as well as selling the farm “Old Gundary”.
It’s something of an end of an era, with the Fife family, of Irish ancestry, having farmed in the Goulburn district since the early days of settlement.
John said he got the “chaff cutting bug” when he was still at school, and would try to stay at home on the days the contract chaff cutter would come to the farm.
He was fascinated with the machinery and the process of cutting, and he began working with agricultural machinery even before he had left school, working as a contract farmer.
He bought his first new self propelled header when he was 19 years old, in 1965.
The most exciting purchase was made by John’s father Lionel, however, who purchased a Cliff and Bunting “W” chaff cutter in the mid ‘60s for the Fife’s use on the farm.
For John this purchase would mark his introduction into the cutting business.
The chaff cutter was purchased from the Deihm family, who had previously carried out contract chaff cutting on the Fife’s farm.
As John and his brother Bill got older, they began to use it themselves for some time with the intention of establishing their own business.
The output, however, was too small for commercial purposes, and in the 1970s they purchased a Cliff and Bunting model “K” chaff cutter – a six knife cut – and one of the biggest cutters ever made.
That model “K” is now the central item on offer at the upcoming clearing sale.
With that purchase, John and Bill became full-time commercial chaff cutters.
Their loyal customers included those from Sydney (such as the Page family of the Old Sydney Showground), the Goulburn area, Moss Vale, Bowral, Bungendore, Braidwood and Crookwell.
Their chaff went even further in some cases.
“In the droughts, when Queensland was dry, we carted a lot a chaff to the Brisbane area,” he said.
“During the late ‘90s there was a lot of demand when there was a drought almost everywhere, we had customers as far away as Brisbane and Tamworth, and that kept us really ﬂat out.”
He said the chaff cutter should create quite a bit of interest at the sale, as it has had many updates through its life and has been modernised, such as the ability to grease it while it is still operating.
“And there is also associated cutting gear as well: one doesn’t go without the other,” he said.
“For many years you could not buy a new chaff cutter – you could only buy the parts – but the old stuff works so well; the six knife chaff cutter gives you most production and the best cut.”
John said a highlight of his chaff cutting career was developing the popular product called Triple Mix, the product endorsed by Don Burke.
That occurred about 20 years ago, but John said choosing the name was somewhat controversial.
“Triple mix is a combination of oaten wheaten chaff and lucerne, all blended and cut together, and then sprayed with molasses,” he said.
“When I was trialling this product, I had a lady customer who used to come every Monday and get 12 or 14 bags of chaff, and I said to her, ‘take a bag of this home and tell me what you think’.”
The next week she came back and told John it was “absolutely wonderful stuff”.
“Have you got any more of that ‘horse’s delight’?,” she asked.
She had come up with a name that John instantly loved – Horse’s Delight – but there was a problem.
John’s wife Carolyn had already chosen a name: Triple Mix.
“I really liked Horse’s Delight, but to be diplomatic I chose Triple Mix.
“So I put Triple Mix on the top of the bag, but across the bottom I put Horse’s Delight,” John says with a grin.
In addition to the chaff cutter and associated equipment, John will also be selling a wide range of agricultural machinery, and even restored antique tractors, at the on-property clearing sale on October 28.
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