THIRTEEN young farmers headed south to broaden their horizons on the recent Don Campbell Memorial Study Tour to Tasmania.
Don Campbell was a Yannathan dairy farmer and inaugural chair of GippsDairy who, at the time of his death in 1998, was organising a Tasmanian study tour, which was subsequently named in his honour.
With visits to profitable dairy farm businesses, opportunities to meet innovative farmers and time spent at the Tasmanian Dairy Conference, the Young Dairy Network (YDN) participants took home plenty of knowledge and skills in their carry-on luggage.
Tom Kent, also a Yannathan farmer, said he and other participants were impressed with how Tasmanian dairy farmers are going about their jobs.
In particular, he said, the farm models they saw were efficient and customised to the local environment.
“The main farms over there are very low input operations, only feeding a tonne of grain with a big focus on pasture utilisation,” Tom said.
“The main thing I got out of it, was how important pasture utilisation is to profitability and making sure you breed cows to suit your system not create a system to suit your cows. A lot of people in Gippsland could learn from that.”
Tom said the Don Campbell Tour is a great opportunity for people from across south-east Australia to pick up new farming and business management concepts.
“It’s a great idea. There is a lot of farm conversion happening and a lot of irrigation. It gives you a fresh perspective in grass management because the farms over there are really focused on how they can improve pasture management.”
Highlights of the tour included:
• Visiting a biological farmer who balances his soil using micronutrients and non-acidic and non-chloride based fertiliser to promote biology in soil;
• Inspecting a maize crop at 23t (excellent yield);
• The focus Tasmanian farmers have on their numbers/stats i.e. profit, pasture, cows, genetics – they measure everything related to farm goals;
• Observing that pasture consumption and simplicity of the system is a key driver to profitability; and
• Discussing how once-a-day milking has the potential to be just as profitable – but only if input costs are reduced to match lost production.
GippsDairy extension officer Ashley Burgess said the YDN members who went on the tour were engaged, driven and keen to forge their own careers in the dairy industry.
“They were all open to learning and innovation, listened to other ideas and were able to decide if it could work for them,” Ashley said.
Ashley said a session that discussed how older farmers interacted with ‘Generation Y’ farmers was particularly insightful.
“Intergenerational communication is a much bigger issue than ever before. Learning what makes people tick, what pushes their buttons and how to engage with them was really instructive for everyone involved.”
Applications for next year’s Don Campbell Memorial Study Tour will open later in 2019.