A handful of calves purchased last year by Brianna McClain might not stand out in a big herd, but they mean a lot to the budding dairy farmer.
Brianna was inspired to buy the calves after taking part in the first United Dairyfarmers of Victoria - Gardiner Dairy Foundation study tour of Victoria and she sees the young Holsteins as the next stage in advancing her dairy career.
A town girl from Maffra, Brianna has always defied those who advised against a career in dairy. At 25, she has nearly 10 years experience in dairy and purchasing the calves marks another step forward in her career.
"Buying a handful of heifer calves is small, but it's a start. I want to be a first-generation farmer and you've got to start somewhere," she said.
The senior farm hand, who manages a Maffra district farm's young stock and leased block, took it upon herself to seek a dairy placement while still at school.
"The school tried to push me in another direction but I didn't want to be a hairdresser or any generalised female trade, so I put some feelers out and got my own dairy placement," she said.
A glowing report from the farm owner meant the placement pathway stayed open for future students.
The placement also meant Brianna had found her ideal career.
"I love animals and working with cows and here I am still enjoying it," she said.
Brianna learnt about the Victorian UDV-Gardiner study tour through the Young Dairy Network, and it opened her eyes to ways to advance her career.
"Because I don't come from a farming background, it's hard to know about pathways in the industry," she said.
"It opened up for me the massive scope of opportunities."
The tour helped participants to build valuable industry connections and gave them an insight into different farming systems and career pathways.
They learnt about genomics and other industry advancements, and even got to see goat and camel dairies.
"We know what a cow dairy looks like but to have the opportunity to see camel and goat dairies was fantastic," Brianna said.
The tour visited different farming systems in Victoria's three major dairying regions, including young farming families and one farmer who came to Australia without any industry background.
"He was not from a farming background but he hit the ground running by working hard for someone, buying some calves and now he owns his farm," Brianna said.
"We also visited young farmers just starting in the industry and it was great to see how they are making it on their own.
"I got something out of everything on the tour, but for me, especially not coming from a farming background, seeing how achievable it can be was really inspiring."
In fact, Brianna was so inspired that when she returned from the tour she decided to invest in some calves.
"One of the farmers we visited would buy anything and everything he had the money for and that's how he got started," she said.
"So, I started buying calves and heifers from my boss. I hope to slowly build up money to put into more stock or to start building a little herd."
Brianna still lives in town so her calves are mixed into the farm's herd, but she knows she's making a good investment in her future.
While enjoying her current role, Brianna has long-term plans to become a share farmer.
"That would be a way to dip my toes in a bit deeper," she said.
One of five sisters, Brianna, who has three children of her own aged nine, five and two, is the only one in the family pursuing a career in agriculture.
"You can't work on-farm and not love the cows," she said.
"That's what got me involved and I still like working outdoors.
"When I was 15, I was offered a dairy apprenticeship but mum thought I'd be a bit nuts to take it and said I should stay at school and figure out what I wanted to do.
"I did but I ended up in the industry anyway - I feel like it was meant to be."
The study tour is organised by United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) and funded by Gardiner Dairy Foundation.
Applications for the 2022 tour are now open and close at 9am on Monday, May 16.
Further details about the tour, including application forms and contact details can be viewed HERE.
To be eligible, applicants must be aged between 18 and 35 years, live and work in Victoria, be actively involved in the Victorian dairy industry, either on farm or in the supply chain and be available for travel between July 4-11, 2022.
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