Together with Sarah’s dad Mick, and brothers Daniel and Brad, their family farm has supplied our business since we took over from Bonlac, milking 160 cows on an 80-hectare dairy farm, with another 32 hectares used for growing young stock.
I’ve lived on a dairy farm for most of my life – helping my parents from a young age, before taking on my own farm with my husband, Mick, in 1992.
It’s a really varied and hands-on role. On any given day, I’m milking cows morning and night, feeding calves, and allocating pasture. In between this, I could be picking up farm supplies, drenching or vaccinating young stock, spraying weeds, doing minor fence repairs or keeping the financial and farm records up-to-date. There’s always something that needs to be done.
While I grew up on a farm, I haven’t always worked in dairy. After I finished school I tried the corporate life for a few years and worked at ANZ Bank. Then Mick and I headed to Western Australia and travelled the state working in the mines. I worked as a mill operator, truck driver and crusher operator for a few years.
Although, I’m happy that I came back to dairy. I really enjoy working with the cows, rearing calves and working outside. There are always different jobs to be done and often a challenge presents itself.
Raising kids on a dairy farm has given us the opportunity to share the experience of farm life, the value of being involved in a small rural community, and explore and appreciate the environment around us. The fun of campfires and building cubbies, having pets, looking after newborn calves, riding motorbikes, seeing large machinery working, and driving paddock bombs.
Farm kids have a better understanding of where food comes from, and they also learn about being flexible and resourceful as they’re often alongside their parents as they carry out their farming duties. It could be the inconvenience of animals escaping onto the road when you’re going out, eating dinner any time between 6-10pm, or coping with floods, drought or bushfires. There are always challenges, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything.
I’m happy Sarah has chosen to stay working in dairy, even though she’s a little further away from home now. Sarah is independent, honest, kind, considerate, respectful and compassionate, which are more important to me than her many academic achievements. I’m very proud of the daughter she’s become and I know she would love to be a farmer herself one day.
I’ve always loved working on the farm with animals. Looking after young calves, feeding out grain milking, and getting to be outside – rather than being stuck inside like a lot of the city kids.
For as long as I can remember I was in the dairy helping to milk cows, or following mum around the farm while we did odd jobs. As I grew older, it became one of my part time jobs – or more like a hobby – and you’d often find me in the dairy before and after school.
Getting involved in the farm meant that I learned responsibility early. When I was 16, mum and dad headed off overseas for a couple of weeks during the school holidays, leaving me to look after the farm. At the time I was terrified, especially as it always seemed that something went wrong whenever mum and dad were away.
Although they had a lot more trust in me than what I had in myself. It was very stressful, and some days I had to milk before catching the school bus. Despite this, it increased the confidence I had in my own abilities, allowing me to learn the value of hard work – not many kids can say that at 16 they were in charge of the family business and main source of income!
So, I was very proud of myself when the farm was still in one piece when they returned.
Growing up on the farm certainly ensured that my future career would be in the agriculture or dairy industries. In the long run, I can’t wait to go back home and take over the family farm, but following dad’s advice, I’ve headed off-farm to first gain some experience working elsewhere.
After completing a Bachelor of Agriculture at The University of Melbourne, I joined Fonterra almost a year ago as part of the Farm Source Service Centre team. This role sees me helping farmers deal with issues including transport and milk collection, milk quality, and accessing monthly statements.
Having on-farm experience and knowledge allows me to better understand farmer issues and respond to them in the most helpful way possible. I know that when you’re up early and working out on the farm, you need whatever today’s problem is to be fixed quickly and efficiently.
We take around 125 calls a week. It’s good to know that we’re helping to make the lives of farmers a little bit easier, and I think they appreciate that I understand the day-to-day life of working on a farm, as well as the challenges they’re facing.
My mum has played a huge role in the path I’ve taken. For as long as I can remember, mum has been a full-time farmer and also worked part-time as a book keeper for a few local businesses. She’s also heavily involved in a lot of community group committees, which is really important in smaller, rural towns.
The biggest thing mum has instilled in me is a strong work ethic. She has taught me that I should always try my best and to not worry about things I can’t change – so I always try keep this in mind, although it’s sometimes easier said that done!