Choosing Dairy

by Sarah Collier, GippsDairy

Choosing a career in dairy usually means long days, early mornings and a lot of physical work. But it also means no day is ever the same, working with animals and if you own a farm, being your own boss.

Laura McConachy had never worked on a farm before she completed a few weeks work experience with Julia and Phil Allan. She now helps them milk around 200 cows in South Gippsland full-time while doing her Certificate III in Agriculture. “Laura was our very first work experience student. She was in year 10 and looking for somewhere to be placed for five Wednesdays, starting the following day. She arrived at 6.30 am the following morning and the rest as they say is history,” Julia said.

Laura enjoyed working on the dairy farm so much that after she finished her work experience, she went on to milk one day a week while still at school. “I’ve always been a hands on worker, but couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. But after working on the farm I knew this is it. That’s what I want to do,” she said.

She also stayed on the farm during most of her school holidays and helped out. “Laura’s entry to dairy has been exceptional because she has a strong work ethic, but more importantly, she is willing to have a go at anything without letting fear hold her back. She knew nothing about Ag when she started, but she was confident and willing to try and to listen,” Julia said.

Despite having lived in the city all her life, Laura didn’t hesitate to try her hand at farming when she got the opportunity. “I’ve never been in a cow shed before starting on the farm. My advice is to just go for it. "You’ll have fails, but also great successes,” she said.

Farming is not a 9-5 job, and a typical day for Laura means she gets up at 6am, gets the cows at 6.30am, then finishes milking them by 10am. She then cleans the shed, feeds the calves in the morning and does other farm work like fencing. She gets the cows again in the afternoon for their second milking.

“Every day is different. I just learned how to feed out hay to the dry cows and I enjoy the machinery side of things,” Laura said. “Milking has been the most challenging thing for me so far. In particular recognising mastitis. But I feel more confident now and I have great support. Julia and Phil are amazing. They help whenever they can.”

Taking on a trainee is a big step but can also be very rewarding. “Laura has been a great addition to our team. She is punctual, reliable, dedicated, uses her initiative and is enthusiastic to learn all she can. She listens carefully, takes things in, but always asks when she’s not sure. A model trainee really,” Julia said.

Getting your foot in the door can simply mean milking once a week to start off with. The career opportunities are varied and there’s something for everyone. “There’s so many areas you can go into. I enjoy AI and ultrasound for example, and I’m undertaking AI training as part of the traineeship,” Laura said.

“Trainees can be difficult to have until they have their licences, but if you are willing to give a little and help them along, they can be the injection of youth that your business really needed,” Julia said. “After 2 years of remote learning for the children of this 2021 cohort, a lot of them are looking for hands on learning and work-life experiences. Going to University in our current environment isn’t all that appealing. If they are keen and willing, give them a go,” Julia said.

Links and resources

Certificate III in Agriculture
Careers in the dairy industry
A list and helpful resources on everything you need to get employed (and to employ someone)

For further assistance with dairy careers or traineeships, contact Sarah Cornell, Career Development Coordinator at GippsDairy on or 0437 400 316

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