Young people across Victoria's south-west say high start-up costs are keeping the next generation of dairy farmers away from the industry, but one initiative is aiming to change that.
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BIG LEAP: Macarthur farmer Hamish Wortley, 19, plans on continuing in the industry but for some entering the sector for the first time there are obstacles to overcome. Picture: Morgan Hancock

Hamish Wortley, 19, works on his family’s 50-stand rotary in Macarthur where he’s responsible for 750 Friesian cows.

He said he planned to become a career farmer after a period in higher education, but it could be a difficult pathway for those without an existing background in the industry or financial support.

“The financial aspects are really hard and with recent land prices doubling over the last three years that also adds to the difficulty,” he said.

“It’s easier getting into the industry having that background from a family farm.

“The start-up costs would be the main issue at the moment – it’s just very hard for someone to come into something without financial support to get into the industry.

“That’s across all farming as well – not just the dairy industry.”

Mr Wortley was one of 16 young people who participated in Fonterra’s Proud to be a dairy farmer program.

The initiative aims to address the challenge of retaining young, talented people in dairy farming by exposing them to emerging technology and careers.

“The main focus of the program was around young people and probably young people looking to get into the industry and helping them progress into owning their own herd and things like that,” he said.

“For young people it was a really good opportunity to meet people from all different areas.

“There were four people from Tasmania.

“I went to the program not knowing anyone. It was good to talk about the way people do different things and we also met with major industry leaders so it was great to talk to them too.”

Another participant was 25-year-old Billy Buckingham from Scott’s Creek, who currently works on a 400-cow dairy farm in a 50-unit rotary dairy. He said he was attracted to the industry for a variety of reasons.

“You’re pretty much your own boss,” he said. “It’s just you and the cows and it’s a good outlet – there’s always something to do.

“The program was good because I learned about robot dairies, which I had heard of but never seen before. The motivational speakers were also really enjoyable as well as insights into different farming techniques.”

But he said it was also a very challenging sector for newcomers.

“It’s hard at the moment with it being about $2.5 million to start a farm. You’ve got to buy cows, you’ve got to buy machinery and finally land on top of that. Land prices are through the roof.

“It’s a very rewarding industry but you’ve got to be in it for a while to get those rewards.”

A recent report released by the International Dairy Federation says that total dairy consumption globally will increase by 24 per cent by 2031, or an increase of 1.7 per cent per year.

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