With her sights set firmly on a future in the dairy industry there is no stopping 19-year-old Ally Dickson.
Farming with her dad Neil at Bookaar in the Western District, Ally is heavily involved in every aspect of farm management including the recent building of the family’s 60-unit rotary dairy.
She already has a long list of skills on her resume including milking, feeding, silage making, insemination and harvesting.
Her hands-on approach is already reaping rewards as she learns her away around the complicated day to day running of a family dairy farm, eventually she hopes to take over the family enterprise.
“Dad makes all the major decisions but I am second in charge but when he is away I am the boss and I make all the calls - Dad is very proud of me and excited to see what I can go in the future with the farm business,” Ally said.
“I have my AI ticket, and this was my first year inseminating the herd. I wasn’t the best, but I am learning my way around it and I am sure I will get better.”
Ally is in the process of completing a certificate three in agriculture and wants to go right through to completing her Bachelor with RIST.
“Dad thinks its just a piece of paper, but I know I will learn so much more by completing this study,” she said.
Ally has embraced technology and has been responsible for the introduction of things on farm her dad would have never dreamed of using – including the introduction of GA herd insight collars.
“We put the collars on late February last year and they pick up everything from heats to rumination, to cows eating and cows not eating, cows sitting down and sick cows.
“The health alerts are fantastic. We will get a cow in look at her and find out she is sick with pneumonia or whatever the issue is.”
Ally regularly attends West Vic dairy discussion group meetings and has found talking with other farmers about their own management and experiences is helping build her own knowledge base.
“We live in a positive dairy region and Bookaar is a great place to dairy farm and dad always encourages me to get off the farm and go to discussion groups.”
This year Ally is focusing on improving calf rearing and in particular management within the calf shed.
“We are looking at improving our system, especially around animal hygiene. It makes a massive difference when you do it properly - I love my cows and there is nothing more rewarding than watching an animal you have hand reared come into the dairy,” she said.
Ally is also hoping to find her way into showing and she is keen on giving the genetic side of things a real push.
“Dad is a bit old fashioned and says if it doesn’t make money it’s not worth doing but I am very interested in breeding. We are starting to use sexed semen on all heifers each year to improve our genetic base and I hope to be out in the ring at International Dairy Week showing cattle next year,” she said.
The building of the rotary dairy has ticked one of the major infrastructure boxes and has reduced milking time of the 480 split calving herd from 3.5 hours to 1.5.
Ally said the time saved from milking is being put to good use in other areas of management and while Bookaar is a great place to farm the biggest risk to their operation is drought.
“Dad got caught in the 2007 drought when he wasn’t prepared and he is making sure that doesn’t happen again. We are working on establishing a buffer zone of stored feed, we currently have plenty of fodder ahead and we are hoping it stays that way.”
Ally says with support from her dad she will continue to forge a career in the industry she is so passionate about.