THREE NEW directors were appointed to the GippsDairy Board at the annual general meeting. Neerim South’s David Johnson, DataGene evaluation manager Michelle Axford and Glen Alvie dairy farmer Shiona Berry were formally announced in their new roles at the AGM in Traralgon.
The meeting also saw Grant Williams, a dairy farmer from Hallora, and Lauren Finger, a dairy farmer from Yannathan, reappointed as chair and deputy chair respectively. Denison dairy farmer Brad Missen was elected secretary.
The Gardiner Foundation hosted a post-AGM dinner, where the results of a comprehensive feed-base study were released. Mr Williams said the three new directors would bring a variety of skills to the board table.
“David’s business experience, Michelle’s knowledge of genetics and Shiona’s background as a ruminant nutritionist mean we have added a huge bank of knowledge to the board,” he said.
“All three are also dairy farmers, so they understand the industry and what farmers are having to deal with in any given season.”
Mr Johnson joins the board after a career in dairy that has been diﬀerent to most. He has spent time in the US state of Minnesota and in northern Victoria, where he studied farming systems very diﬀerent to West Gippsland, as well as being a partner in the successful Tarago River Cheese Company.
Having last year been awarded a scholarship to complete the Australian Owner Manager Program at the University of Queensland, Mr Johnson thought it was a good time to share some of his knowledge with the wider dairy industry.
“It’s a chance to give back to an industry that has been good to me over the years,” he said.
“I think with my experience, not only on the farm but with the specialty cheese side of things as well, it gives me an insight into value-adding products, quality of milk and has given me a pretty good network around the place.
“I also see that we need to get smarter about how we employ people and smarter about how we look after animals.”
Ms Axford said joining the board seemed like a good ﬁt after two decades of working in the dairy industry.
“I have broad interests in dairy, outside of my paid job, having been involved in Cows Create Careers and the Young Dairy Development Program when it was just getting oﬀ the ground,” she said.
“I’ve been working in parallel to GippsDairy for most of my 20-year career in dairy, so I’ve always been interested in what GippsDairy has been doing.”
Ms Axford, who milks 250 cows with husband Michael at Korumburra, said she would like to use her on-farm experience and knowledge of genetics to help GippsDairy deliver better outcomes for the region’s farmers.
“We are fortunate to have some really good research outcomes that are still yet to be taken up by a broad spectrum of farms,” she said.
“For some farms that may be doing something diﬀerent in the genetics space, for others it might be doing something diﬀerent in the pastures space.”
Ms Berry wants to encourage innovation during her time on the GippsDairy board. Milking 750 cows with husband Caleb on hilly country, she can see huge potential in digital developments like virtual fencing.
“I love a bit of innovation, so I’d like to bring that discussion to the table,” she said.
“I’m a bit in love with virtual fencing at the moment, I can really see the beneﬁts of it, especially in hilly land.”
Ms Berry, who has a background as a ruminant nutritionist, said innovative thinking could change the way the Gippsland industry looked at home-grown feed, making a big diﬀerence to proﬁtability.
“I would like to see improvement in the home-grown fodder side of things and increasing our returns of our own land,” she said.
“I would like to see more multiple cropping and trying to get more growth out of land.”
Mr Williams thanked the two departing directors, Sinead De Gooyer and Jo Bills, for their eﬀorts in further developing the Gippsland dairy industry.
“As a doctor and a dairy farmer, Sinead brought a perspective that helped inform the board of the pressing issues surrounding farmer health in recent years,” he said
“Jo’s energy and intelligence was valued across a range of issues, as was the industry expertise that she brought to the board table.”
The full board for the next two years is: Chair Grant Williams (dairy farmer, Hallora), deputy chair Lauren Finger (dairy farmer, Yannathan), secretary Brad Missen (dairy farmer, Denison), Ross Anderson (dairy farmer, Denison), Brian Gannon (agribusiness manager, Leongatha), Richard Shephard (veterinarian, Maﬀ ra), Dan Armstrong (farm business management consultant, Jindivick), Shiona Berry (dairy farmer, Glen Alvie), Michelle Axford (genetic evaluation manager, Korumburra), David Johnson (dairy farmer, Neerim South) and Allan Cameron (executive oﬃcer/regional manager).