I have been lucky enough this year to be given the chance to go to the Australian Dairy Conference in February and the Dairy Research Foundation Symposium this month thanks to Dairy NSW.
As part of this the other bursary recipient and I need to give a presentation on (as I understand it) how to attract and keep young people into our wonderful industry.
I thought I knew why before I even left for Geelong in February – money.
That is part of the problem but it goes much deeper than that.
Firstly though, why did I think it was money.
We have been doing it very tough financially for a while for various reasons, some within our control some without.
Our oldest child was working with us at the time. We paid for everything for him, fed him, clothed him and kept a roof over his head. He had as much freedom as could be allowed doing the job we do. But one day he came home and told us he couldn’t stay because he wasn’t getting ‘paid’. My hope was he’d have to look after himself and realise what he was getting here, but alas no! He has since moved back this was and is working on another dairy, getting paid.
While looking at dairy farms in Victoria, knowing my brief, I made a point of talking to the staff and asking why they were there, are they committed to staying if not this farm in the industry and are they keen to get their own farm.
The answers varied, but most of the staff of any age said they were not keen to own their own farm.
After reading a blog posted by Farming Ahead of the Curve about the Young Farming Champions, and realising dairy wasn’t represented, I think I may have the deeper answer.
Dairy just isn’t sexy!
Who in there right mind would want to spend the rest of their working lives covered in excrement from cows and bureaucracy?
Or spend nights out in the cold and wet pulling calves or nursing down cows?
Or work hard at building a business, working 100+ hours a week to provide dairy for families only to not be able to feed your own?
And this is reason the industry I love is not considered sexy. And I have to admit I have been responsible at times for showing dairy in such a bad light.
There is good stuff too!
To be so close to nature on a daily basis is just one reason, but has to be my favorite. The creek here is where I go to detox my mind. To watch the sun rise and set reminds me that everything has a renewal process and that tomorrow is a new day.
To be to be on the cutting edge of technology use. The most amazing ideas are currently being developed for our industry both in Australia and overseas that will be game changers not just for dairy but other animal production systems as well.
The people who work in dairy are a special kind of people. Hard working. Honest. Caring for animal and environment.
Milk is an amazing food! How cool is it we can supply such a clean source of vital vitamins and minerals!
So, how do we change the perception and create a view that being a dairy farmer is something to be proud of? (Which it is, by the way!)
The Dairy Australia initiative Cows Create Careers is fantastic!
Agriculture needs to be taught at every school! I know not every school can have a farm, but just reading ‘The Shipping New’s made me keen to want to know more about Newfoundland!
Aim at the girls! This is the perfect industry for the nurturer! Why not take advantage of that! And although its hard, raising children on a dairy farm is fantastic!
We need to start being proud of who we are and hold our heads up high!
And lastly we need to be open! Open to questions that we answer honestly. Open to criticism. Open to changes and new ideas.
Lets get this industry the happening place to be!