By Kirra Grimes
THE State Government launched the latest round of its Young Farmers Scholarships last week, highlighting a local dairy farmer as a shining example of how the funds can help set up productive and profitable agricultural careers.
Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes launched the 2019 scholarship round last Thursday, after taking a tour of the Loch dairy farm of past recipient Kate Kirk, whom she described as “a fantastic leader for other young farmers”.
Kate, 33, used her scholarship to complete an advanced hoof care course in New Zealand in 2017, sharing her learnings with her employees and other farmers upon her return to Australia.
It’s something Kate says she wouldn’t have been able to do without the scholarship funds, which she also used to purchase a cattle crush for her farm.
“I hadn’t taken a day off for ten years but having the funding allowed me to go away for the course, and cover myself on the farm while I was gone,” she said.
The course itself taught Kate the long-term cost saving benefits and productivity increases to be gained from the practice of hoof trimming.
And in the years since receiving the scholarship, she’s continued to apply that principle of investing now for long-term savings, recently purchasing automated technology to take the time and labour out of heat detection.
“The heat detection collars cost about $100,000, which sounds like a lot, but it’s not that much for the time it’s going to save me sitting out in the paddock doing it by eye,” she explained.
Ms Symes said Kate’s example was “exactly what [the Young Farmers Scholarships] are about”.
“It’s about identifying potential leaders who can take things to the next step, learn the skills they need, and improve their businesses,” she said.
“And if the by-product of that is producing leaders that are happy to share those skills with other farmers – what a fantastic program we’ve created.
“Kate’s going to go from strength to strength, not only for herself but for dairy farmers and particularly young farmers in the region.”
Kate encouraged any young farmers wanting to invest in themselves and seize opportunities that might not otherwise be accessible to apply for the scholarship.
“If you’ve got a dream that you want to do something, just apply for it,” she said.
Applications for the Upskill and Invest Young Farmers Scholarships are open now until August 9, 2019, to farmers aged 35 or under who have been working in farm businesses at least three days a week for the past three months, with at least two years total experience on-farm.
Recipients are eligible for up to $5000 to support training and study in areas such as business and risk management, genetics and pasture management development; and further support of up to $5000 to put new skills into practice through professional development, business planning or by investing in on-farm equipment.
To find out more about the program and to apply for a scholarship, visit http://agriculture.vic.gov.au