Emma, from metropolitan Western Australia, is on an agricultural gap-year as a part of NFF's AgCAREERSTART program. She was matched with dairy farmers Brian and Michele Lawrence, in Meander, Tasmania.
My first three months working on a farm has been a journey I will never forget! Every day here at Janefield Dairy has presented me with a new and interesting challenge. Ranging from milking early in the mornings to feeding out in the afternoons, every task I've been given has provided me with lifelong skills and values. Coming from a very city-girl lifestyle, if you had told me I'd be doing things like driving quad bikes and tractors every day on my gap year, it would have blown my mind. I am so grateful for this opportunity as I get to spend my day outdoors and achieve things I never expected to achieve.
I arrived at the farm as a fresh out-of-school teenager, not knowing exactly what to expect from this foreign environment and found myself quite nervous. However, as I've got to know my colleagues and supervisors, my worries have quickly diminished. They were so welcoming and willing to teach me. I can honestly say the past three months have been the most interesting months of my life.
I am constantly learning new things about the complexities of a working dairy farm. I never realised how much work goes in to manage such a large-scale agricultural business. I am so grateful to my managers and gap-year hosts, Brian and Michele Lawrence. I have had the privilege of attending multiple industry training events, allowing me to network with like-minded people as well as learn from those who know best. I feel like I've opened a door to a whole new world filled with so many opportunities for young people like me.
We have reached the end of the season and dried off all 1100 dairy cows. For now, we are mostly feeding out hay and silage to the cows in preparation for their calves in August and September. Calving season is a dairy farm's busiest time of year, and I am super keen to dive into it. I'm looking forward to learning many more skills around calf rearing.
Benjamin, from Brisbane, was matched with dairy farmer Mandy Mulcahy, in Kyvalley, Victoria.
My start in agriculture has been nothing short of exciting. The supportive team at AgCAREERSTART helped this city boy to find his way onto a farm that has welcomed and supported me and is working to understand my differences as an individual.
Three months ago, I left home to move to a large dairy farm in rural Victoria. I hadn't known what to expect but I was very nervous, especially given that I didn't know anybody in all of Victoria. But even after my first day I felt I was going to be part of the team and the community around me. The first week was full of learning basics - working around cattle, the workflow, droving and always being reminded to check the gates.
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The harsh realities of farm life (and death) is one of the big lessons I have had to learn early on. Dealing with the death of livestock meant I had to quickly adjust my thinking about how farming works. Not everything is smiles and roses. But the joys of the wins balance that out ... like figuring out how to get the stuck cow out of the boggy mud by myself!
There are those moments where I just have to laugh at myself. My arrival on the farm saw me take wrong gates and wrong laneways and get bogged in my little car. This was all before I had even met the boss!
One thing I wish I understood better before I started was just how much long hours impacts your ability to make friends out of work hours. So, getting along with my workmates, who have become a bit like my family and friends, has been a way to overcome this. I am looking forward to making more connections in my community as I settle in. I didn't have a rural background. The team around me, who have a lifetime of knowledge and experience, are patiently developing my skills as a useful team member. As I learn about the nature and behaviour of cattle, my excitement that this is for me is growing. Short sessions on cattle nutrition with outside providers, practical learning activities on the farm and the everyday skills that are new to me, like droving on the quad bike, giving cattle injections and assisting in training heifers, are providing me with experience that I am thriving on and relishing.
Farming is by far the best thing I've ever done.
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