Former policeman shoots the lens on a Victorian cattle farm to learn and connect with the community


After 20 years in the Victorian Police, nothing really shocks Sandra Lording anymore.

She says her first day on a beef farm photographing calf marking, which includes castration, was an “interesting introduction.”

“I think maybe they tried to scare me,” she jokes.

“But all of this intrigued me by wanting to know more.

Ms Lording, 53, is a Mansfield-based photographer who moved from the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne with her husband in 2017.

Having spent her entire life living in the city, she said the transition to the country had not been easy and that she wanted to know her new community.

Davilak owns 1,800 head of cattle on nine farms.(

Provided: Sandra Lording


Ms Lording said she would come to the studio every morning and look around to see that the farmland had changed overnight.

“You would suddenly see 1,000 head of cattle appear in a pen, and then the next minute, a canola farm,” she said.

“I felt like if I was to live in this community, then I really needed to know not only the people who live in the city, but also what really makes up the community and farming really forms Mansfield.

“I thought, what better way to educate myself than to take on a farm photography project? “

A woman and a man stand side by side in an art gallery
Sandra Lording and Rod Manning at the opening of The Mansfield Farm Project.(

Provided: Sandra Lording


In 12 months, 41 farm tours and over 12,000 photographs, Ms. Lording documented life on the Davilak cattle farm owned and operated by the Manning family.

Second generation farmer

Roderick “Rodda” Manning, 39, grew up on Davilak watching his father, Rod, work between the farm and his busy vet clinic.

Two men leaning on a barn fence holding hats
Rod Manning and his son Rodda operate Davilak Cattle Farm in Mansfield.(

Provided: Sandra Lording


“Dad came here in the early 70’s and bought about 200 acres [81 hectares] in Merton, and he continued to buy another paddock and another paddock, ”he said.

“He built everything from scratch.

Mr Manning and his wife, Anna, who like his stepfather is also a veterinarian, returned to Mansfield to run the farm and a veterinary clinic six years ago.

They live on the property with their three children, all under the age of six.

Davilak owns 1,800 head of cattle on nine farms, 2,023 hectares of freehold and approximately 405 hectares of leasehold.

Mr Manning said it was his wife’s idea to get involved in the project when she saw a call on social media.

“I was a little hesitant at first – just leaving an unfamiliar person with a camera on the farm that could eventually take things out of context – but Sandra was fantastic,” he said.

“She learned the importance of closing the barriers and not driving down green, slippery hills and all kinds of things.

Capture the “merry-go-round”

In April of this year, Ms Lording reduced the 12,000 shots to 46 for an exhibit that raised funds for charities that connect rural communities with mental health services.

Mr Manning said the selection of photographs truly reflected life on the farm.

“The camera lens looks at things differently from the way I look at things, and Sandra was good at capturing those moments,” he said.

A lone cow stands in silhouette against a pink sunset
Sandra Lording says she has learned a lot during the year.(

Provided: Sandra Lording


“Because she came so regularly over the 12 months, whether it was planting, tagging calves, pregnancy testing, she was able to get a really good schedule for the operation.

“For example, the bulls come out on the same day every year. They come out on the same day every year. What we do is pretty constant and consistent.”

Ms Lording said her favorite shots were those of the family. She said she was drawn to Davilak because of the three generations on the farm.

One-year lessons in a cattle farm

Ms Lording said she had learned a lot over the course of the year, from the difference between a heifer and a steer to the hard work that farming involves.

A bull is lying on its side in a pen while a man trims his hooves.
Bulls’ hooves are trimmed to minimize injury and ensure good hoof health.(

Provided: Sandra Lording


“Farming lasts 365 days a year. There’s a picture of Rodda… bringing the bulls in for their pedicure, and it’s raining heavily,” she said.

“But it has to happen that day, no matter what the conditions – they have to go to work.

Ms Lording said farmers also need to know how to run a successful business.

“And it got me thinking about qualifications – Rod is a vet, Anna is a vet, Rodda is an agronomist. There are a lot of skills and knowledge that come into play,” she said.

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