Dairy farmers across the country have the opportunity to embrace online learning as Dairy Australia moves some key courses and extension to digital platforms.
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LEARNING ONLINE: Dairy Australia's 'Enlight' learning platform is offering formal online courses for farmers.

Face-to-face extension activities have been postponed due to current restrictions, but the country’s 5500 farmers can still tune in to virtual activities and access virtual Discussion Groups.

Dairy Australia’s learning and development manager Felicity Blackstock said it was a new world for dairy farmers but one Dairy Australia has been preparing for and was crucial under current circumstances.

“For farmers, it means we are changing the way we deliver extension,” she said.

“Whether it’s in relation to COVID-19 and how to make sure you’re prepared, the way we deliver more standard extension programs like Cups on Cups Off or more regional specific extension activities, we will be moving online.

“Farmers will also obviously continue to be able to find resources via our website, from factsheets to useful podcasts and videos.”

Dr Blackstock said ‘Virtual Discussion Groups’ had been meeting with great success using the Zoom platform allowing farmers to connect while social distancing measures were enforced.

More formal learning is also available through Dairy Australia’s ‘Enlight’ learning platform, which is free for all dairy farmers who register for a course through their Regional Office.

Dairy Australia has been working to develop online learning modules via Enlight for courses that farmers are identifying as a priority at this time and offer the most benefit as the industry works through the challenges around COVID-19. These courses include milking training for new entrants and employment basics.

The Enlight platform is a secure, virtual ‘classroom’ for farmers of all levels with custom-made workshops, discussion forums and learning management tools. It is easily accessed through a web browser (https://enlight.dairyaustralia.com.au/) or can be available on a phone through a free App, for easy mobile learning while on the farm.

“We are working hard to create online courses for some of our signature Dairy Australia extension activities like Cups On, Cups off, Transition Cow Management and Our Farm, Our Plan and they will all be available by end of May.

“As we’re sure you can appreciate, this is something that takes a bit of time,” Dr Blackstock said.

“We are testing a few of the courses currently with farmers and you’ll hear from your regional teams as soon as they are available.”

Benefits of the new online courses was the mix of self-guided, one-on-one and group learning, and the flexibility of timing around farm and family commitments

The new developments in online learning are part of a new Learning and Capability Development Strategy that aims to facilitate learner-centred and industry-guided learning opportunities that are enhanced through the use of technology.

Speak with the regional team to get enrolled in online extension courses, Virtual Discussion Groups or attend Zoom presentations.

Online learning in action
Farmers in Tasmania have been some of the first in the country to access online learning including Farm Business Analysis and COVID-19 updates.

Scottsdale, Tas, dairy farmer John Leech said the opportunity to access farm business management training at this time online via Zoom sessions was perfect for his expanding business coming into the new season.

“I’ve never used DairyBase before so it was an eye-opener to see what is happening for us across the business,” he said.

“DairyBase is fantastic and it’s useful for us to see what parts of the business are costing us more money and allow us to make plans to fix the pain points.”

Mr Leech said not having to travel and the planning associated with having a day off-farm was the real benefit of the sessions being online.

“It’s a crucial part of the year for us as we set our planning and budgets for next season so it was great timing,” he said.

“Going online has definitely been a help to me I may have been travelling 100 kilometres to get to a face-to-face workshop.”

It was also helpful for his wife, a partner in the business, who still able to participate and keep an eye on their children.

DairyTas regional extension officer Liz Mann was thrilled by the response from farmers.

“Reception has been really positive,” she said.

“Farmers have been very happy to get online and give it a go. The best bit is they keep coming back and farm business analysis means farmers feel more confident about their business skills

“Some of the benefits are that farmers can still keep learning given the current climate. It is also opening up access to our courses to some people who wouldn’t be able to access them otherwise, such as stay-at-home parents or people from either end of the state.”

Ms Mann said she did miss not getting out on farm but was really pleased to still be able to deliver for farmers while socially distancing for COVID-19.

Patancheru police on Tuesday conducted searches on a milk factory in Pashamailaram industrial estate on the city outskirts and seized adulterated dairy products, particularly curd and cheese (paneer).

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