Education goes outside the classroom

By Dairy News

TESS BLAKE has just spent 12 weeks on work placement in the dairy industry as part of her final year of a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga.

Ms Blake’s placement was organised by Murray Dairy and was designed to give her experience across the industry’s service sector, working with agronomists at Advanced Ag and nutritionists at Reid’s Stockfeeds, in addition to the extension staff at Murray Dairy.

Here she shares some of her experiences.

Where do you come from originally?

I am originally from Cobden down in south-west Victoria but am currently studying in Wagga.

What attracted you to agriculture?

I have always been an outdoors and hands-on person. I originally thought I would become a vet but once I started the agriculture degree and all of these alternative career pathways displayed themselves I didn’t even consider transferring at the end of my first year.

What was a highlight of your time at Murray Dairy and why?

The whole experience was fantastic, being able to work with the Murray Dairy team and participate in a variety of workshops was really insightful and I learnt a lot. However, the Young Dairy Network tour to NSW was a major highlight. Getting to meet heaps of new and like-minded people as well as getting to see some of the leading dairy production systems in Australia.

The technological advancements that some of these systems had implemented to be more self-sufficient and sustainable were unbelievable. We were also exposed to other agricultural industries. It was great to see what else is out there and that across industries there are some similar issues in regards to education and training and, of course, water.

Tell us a bit about the project you completed as part of your placement — what did you set out to learn and what did you find?

As part of my studies at CSU I undertook a small research project that saw me interviewing farmers and service providers on a topic of interest specific to dairy farming. I was looking into nutrient management and home-grown feed production. I spoke with five dairy farmers, three service providers and two industry representatives about the changes within dairy systems in the region and where farmers were sourcing information from.

I wanted to learn about nutrient management practices on farm and whether this was a key priority for dairy farmers in northern Victoria. Very early into the interviews, I identified that water was actually the main driver for on-farm feed production. Nutrient management did appear to have room for improvement, but water management and crop diversification to increase the water use efficiency were very clearly the key focus for everyone interviewed.

What advice would you offer other students in agriculture?

Be open-minded and take every opportunity that comes your way. My placement with Murray Dairy has really opened my eyes up to the amount of opportunities out there for young people in agriculture. In order to develop and gain confidence within the industry we need to get ourselves out there, so taking up every opportunity that is on offer is really important.