Merrigum dairy farmer shows determination to thrive in the industry

As a young female dairy farmer, Jane Mann knows how hard she needs to work to be recognised by her peers within the industry.

Jane works on her partner Michael’s family dairy farm in Merrigum, Victoria, starting out with a season of calving, moving on to the milking shed and after the first year she was hooked.

She knows the ins and outs of her farm, and the goals her family have for the business like the back of her hand. 

“We have three farm areas with over 700 acres between them. We use different areas for milking and cropping. We don’t grow a lot of our own feed currently, only a bit of silage and hay, but we are looking to do more of that in the future to help cut our costs of feed,” Jane said. 

Making tough choices for the future

Jane’s also a key decision maker when it comes to the farm’s future.

“Currently we’re looking at succession planning as my partner’s parents want to take a step back from farming duties in the next five years. I’m hoping to continue to work on the farm with my partner and perhaps take over part of the farm with him,” Jane said.

“We have 300 cows and we calve in spring. We have a 34 swing over herringbone in the dairy, and looking to install travelling irrigators to help us grow more feed. We’re hoping to cut the cost of bringing our own feed in by growing more of our own. My dream would be to start using some modern technology like heat sensing collars. I think that would really change the way we operate for the better.”

Overcoming challenges in a male-dominated industry

Despite the experience and knowledge Jane has, being a women in an industry such as dairy farming hasn't come without its challenges.

“Because we’re taking over the farm as a couple, I expect that people will be more inclined to seek out Michael, my partner, instead of including me in the discussions. I think that when we do work together and have contractors and advisors come in, at times I’d like to have Michael, my partner sit in and I’ll ask most of the questions, depending on what we’re being advised on,“ Jane said.

“I often feel like I have to prove myself a lot as a woman. For example we had a plasterer come to the house the other day and ask for help saying ‘Is there a man around here?’ and he needed just a few light things carried in. I just said ‘I can help with that!’”

“People I speak to can assume that because I’m female that I don’t really know anything, especially as I’m relatively new to the industry. I have other skills that I bring to the table which I have learnt through a long career in hospitality that have been helpful on farm.” 

Despite its challenges, Jane says that dairy farming is still the preferred career path for her. Having perseverance and resolve can take you far in dairy farming, and these traits are especially important for women in the industry.

“I would absolutely recommend a career in dairy farming for women. I think the lifestyle is great, and it’s great opportunity for people who want to pursue this kind of work. You do have to be strong-willed though, and be determined, it’s not an easy job,” she says. 

“Sometimes women just have to say ‘I’ve got this’ when people question you, and just get on with it.” 

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