FACING THE toughest season in memory, South Australian dairy farmer Geraldine Dohnt sees the value in reaching out to her peers and her community for support.
Mrs Dohnt, who farms with her husband Glen, four children and seven full-time workers at Monteith near Murray Bridge, says networking is invaluable at any time but especially when things are tough.
Attending the 2018 Bale Up Women in Dairy conference in NSW in September inspired Mrs Dohnt to connect with more farming women.
Since then, Mrs Dohnt has attended a Dairy SA Ladies Lunch at Langhorne Creek in November and is also looking to join the local Country Women’s Association group.
“The conference made me want to come back here and get more involved,” she said.
“It’s great to be with other women who face the same issues; it helps you realise it’s not just you against everything.”
The Dohnts milk 800 cows and crop 2800 ha on one of the few dairying properties in the region.
Mr Dohnt’s family has been on the land for 35 years and they’re predicting it will be the toughest season they’ve experienced in that time.
“You’ve got to roll with it and do what you can,” Mrs Dohnt said.
“We’re trying to plan how we cover everything this season and the next.”
In a normal year, the Dohnts produce enough grain and hay to feed their cows but the drought has severely affected crops.
“Most of the state is going to have a tough year,” Mrs Dohnt said.
“It’s going to hamstring what we do and we’re looking at all other feed options.”
Mrs Dohnt was supported by Dairy Australia through Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network to attend the networking conference organised by NSW Women in Dairy.
The conference included sessions on resilience, the potential for women in dairy, forming partnerships, leading from within and looking after women, along with a visit to local farms.
“It was great to get involved with a like-minded group and to hear the inspiring stories of passionate young women getting into the industry,” Mrs Dohnt said.
“We live on a six-kilometre road and there were probably 20 farms here 40 years ago, now there are three.
“There are so few of us now that we don’t get together with other people as much as you’d like.”
Although not raised on a farm, Mrs Dohnt describes herself as an “outdoors girl who loves to ride horses” and she has fully converted to the dairying lifestyle.
“I’m heavily involved with being a mum of children aged five to 12, but I feed the calves and do other odd jobs,” she said.
“I had three of the kids out this morning helping me feed calves. It’s a great life. It’s tough when you have these years but for the most part you wouldn’t trade it.”
Inspired by the conference, Mrs Dohnt is championing the role of women in dairy and their local communities.
“That’s why I wanted to go — to be around women who are so passionate about what we do,” she said.
Dairy Australia board member Tania Luckin, who presented at the conference, said the participants’ passion for dairy shone through despite the tough conditions.
“It was fantastic to see so many women take time out of their busy lives to use the opportunity to regain their inner-strength and learn tips on how to be resilient in tough times,” Mrs Luckin said.
“Dairy Australia will continue to support women’s networks to help meet the needs of women in our industry.”
Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network was established to connect and support Australian dairy women. It is an active online community and can be joined at: www.facebook.com/groups/legendairywomensnetwork