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Dairy industry trailblazer calls time on a remarkable career

  • May 18, 2021
  • 3 min read

Recognised as a trailblazer for women in dairy, Timboon dairy farmer Jan Raleigh is finally calling time on her remarkable career.

Jan was just six months old when her parents purchased the property between Timboon and Scotts Creek in 1946, farming a small herd of Dairy Shorthorn.

Jan loved the life and wanted to stay on the farm, but followed her parents’ wishes and started a 25-year career in nursing when she turned 18.

That all changed in 1983 when Jan’s father passed, leaving her to assume control of the family property.

“For my whole life all I wanted to do was come home to the farm. My brothers didn’t want to, so this was my chance.”

Inheriting an 80-strong herd that was producing just 50 kilograms of butter fat per cow annually, Jan quickly realised she had to overhaul every facet of the farm.

“If we stayed like that, the farm would have to be sold. You just can’t live on that.”

Eager to learn more, Jan enrolled in a one day a week course at Glenormiston College.

“That was a real eye opener for me – what should be done, compared to what Dad had been doing.

“He hadn’t improved the herd, opting to use the same bull, which led to inbreeding. It was clear to me the herd badly needing improving.

“I did a course in artificial insemination, but that was just after the mad cow disease hit the UK. That was when I started looking at Aussie Reds and thought I’d give them a try.”

Jan was one of the first in the country to breed the Aussie Red.

“They’re a bit smaller than a Holstein and a little bit bigger than a Jersey cow. They don’t produce as much milk, but their protein and fat levels are higher.”

Over time, Jan’s devotion to the breed and modern farming led to a herd of 230 at its peak, producing more than 250 kg of butter fat per cow.

She also won a host of awards. In her final year of farming she had the top ranked Balanced Performance Index (BPI) Aussie Red cow in the country.

In 2020 Jan made the hardest decision of her life – she finally decided to sell the family farm after 74years.

“By the end I was having trouble finding good workers. It got to the point where I was 75 and struggling.

“I didn’t want to sell the farm, but without good help there wasn’t much I could do,” says Jan.

Fortunately for Jan, the people who purchased the farm have given her the chance to stay in her home – which is just as well as she has no desire to move into town.

“I’d never move into town. I just couldn’t stand having people right next door to me. I like peace and quiet and I’m very happy on my own.”

Jan has seen a lot in her time in dairying, including numerous processors wanting to sign up her award-winning farm. However, she has stayed true as a supplier to Fonterra.

“We started supplying Timboon with milk cans when I was a child. When Timboon closed, we moved to Cobden. Then Bonlac took over and we continued with them, and then it was Fonterra.

“I can’t complain at all about the service or the help I’ve had over the years – they’ve been tremendous, as far as I’m concerned,” says Jan.