Australian Dairy Conference helps farmer’s long-term plans
Numurkah dairy farmer Rachelle Moon would love a crystal ball insight into where the industry might be heading over the next decade.
After attending her first Australian Dairy Conference thanks to a bursary from Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network (ALWN), Rachelle sees a future full of promise and innovation with a lot of unsolved mysteries.
“I have no idea where it’s going to be in 10 years’ time,” she said. “The stuff they’re doing and thinking about just blows your mind, and I’m definitely feeling positive. There will always be a market for fresh milk but people will need to think out of the box a bit.”
According to Dairy Australia project manager Natasha Busbridge, who coordinates ALWN, helping dairy women attend the conference provided an important professional development opportunity, with one bursary offered in each of the eight dairy regions.
“ADC offers a diverse range of industry highlights and technical topics to attract farmers,” she said. “But getting time off-farm, especially for women, can be challenging. All our farmers attending the conference took something away with them to help their business and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other farmers.”
Rachelle farms just outside Numurkah with her husband Carl and children Harry, 10, Heidi, 8, and Johnny, 3, along with 120 Holsteins.
It’s their third season on the farm and Rachelle says the family now talks about “our other life” before ownership. “We used to have kids at day care, shuffling things and never doing anything together, now we’re together all the time,” she said.
Carl grew up on a farm while Rachelle lived in Tatura, although she’d held a long term attraction for dairying after being exposed to the industry through dairy farming friends of the family.
That connection became a reality 14 years ago when Rachelle met Carl at International Dairy Week when she was working in the bar for her netball club and he was showing cattle.
A nurse by profession, Rachelle has enjoyed adjusting to full-time farming and family life.
“Carl always said he wanted to milk cows so I said let’s do it now before we get too old. We’re at a good age to embark on something new.”
Their farm, just one kilometre out of Numurkah on Broken Creek, hadn’t been milked for 10 years and is limited due to the size of the dairy, but the Moons have taken a steady approach in rebuilding.
They purchased Carl’s parents’ farm 10 years ago and used it for cropping and beef before leasing and then selling it to buy their current property. “We were extremely optimistic and enthusiastic about the challenge and the change, as were the kids,” Rachelle said.
On the farm Rachelle has taken responsibility for calf rearing. “It’s hard work and very physical, which I quite enjoy,” she said. “The first heifer that I reared has just calved and that was very special; a warm and fuzzy feeling.”
A member of the Murray region Young Dairy Network and the Goulburn Murray Water working party for pricing and tariffs, Rachelle says the Australian Dairy Conference gave her plenty to ponder.
“It’s important to get off farm and think about our business and the industry in general, not just be task orientated,” she said.
“I don’t enjoy listening to people talk about cows and grass all day but there was none of that and the topics were challenging and refreshing, such as welfare which shows the industry wants to address the pointy issues.
“It made us think about where we’re heading and ask if there’s something that can make us special.”
Rachelle said the impact of technology, including the possibility of creating synthetic milk, means farmers must diversify and stand out from the crowd.
“We’re always thinking of what’s next. I’ve seen vending machines in New Zealand where farmers sell milk. If we had a pasteurising plant we could sell it through vending machines. It’s an interesting concept.
“There are lots of options out there.”
Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network was established to connect and support Australian dairy women. It is an active on-line community and can be joined via Facebook.