At a time when dairy farmers are faced with low milk prices and high input costs due to the ongoing drought - there is a ray of hope.
High schools students at Kempsey are opting to do work placement on farms including dairies where they see first-hand where their food comes from.
According to 2019 figures from Education Minister Sarah Mitchell's office there are 3835 year 11 and 12 enrollments for agriculture, 1903 for marine studies (including aquaculture) and 2727 studying primary industries.
Dairy farmers Sue and Brett McGinn from Belmore River have developed long-term relationships with the local high schools including Kempsey High and St Paul's College through cattle shows and work placements.
Mrs McGinn said she was keen to promote careers in dairy to the next generation by exposing young people to the real-life workings of a dairy farm.
"There's nothing quite like being totally immersed in the day-to-day running of a working farm to connect students and helping to develop a genuine understanding of where their food comes from and how it's produced," she said.
"It's a pleasure to open our farm and our home to these enthusiastic young people."
Despite the current drought situations, Mrs McGinn, who supplies Norco, says agriculture offers an opportunity to create wealth over time.
"I have been meeting with farmers all week who have said no matter how tough conditions are on farm at the moment that their love for their dairy cattle gets them out of bed in the morning to keep going and get the job done to feed the nation," she said.
Jasmin Baker, a year 11 student from St Paul's College who undertook her work placement at the McGinns property last week, said she was surprised at the scale of the enterprise.
Her day started at 5.30am when the cows were milked. She then fed calves, moved electric fences and shifted the herd onto pastures for the day's feed.
She also was there when the McGinns were undertaking herd recording, which involved taking samples of the milk from each cow to test for quality, volume and to assist with management decision.
"It's a bit different and better than I thought it would be," Miss Baker said.
St Paul's College primary industries teacher Graham Bramley said they were fortunate to have good working relationships with local farmers like the McGinns, which had contributed to a rise in numbers of students studying agriculture.
"We are lucky we have a trade skills centre at our school that is seeing the number of kids doing primary industries and ag swell across all age groups," Mr Bramley said.
"Along with Kempsey High, we have kids going to shows around the state, there is a lot of activity in beef and we are fortunate in dairy locally to have committed people who are keen to take our students on work placement regularly."
Meanwhile at Tocal College, where they milk 300 cows per day (approximately 26 litres per cow), there is an average of 10 students per year studying a specialist dairy traineeships.
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There are another 30 agricultural trainees and 100 general agriculture students (Cert III and IV) who undertake dairying subjects as part of their studies.
Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said the future of our dairy industry relied on a pipeline of skilled and passionate workers.
"NSW is home to some of the best dairy producers in the world, and our next generation of farmers has a valuable opportunity to learn first-hand from the best in the business," Mr Marshall said.
"I'd encourage any person considering a career in the dairy industry to take the opportunity with both hands. There's a wealth of opportunities out there for people who are committed to such a crucial industry."
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