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Australian Dairy Conference gives Forbes farmer big boost

In 2013 Ellie Cowhan decided to take a break from studying to spend a gap year working on her parents’ dairy farm at Forbes, five years later she’s still there.

Ellie had planned to use the working break to save for a house before returning to study nursing but today she’s happily continuing as a farmer.

A decision reinforced recently when she attended the 2018 Australian Dairy Conference in Melbourne confirming her love for farming – and her dislike of big cities!

Ellie received a bursary from Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network (ALWN) to attend the conference and says the information she gleaned will help her family farm to implement positive changes.

According to Dairy Australia project manager Natasha Busbridge, who coordinates ALWN, helping dairy women attend the Australian Dairy Conference provided an important professional development opportunity, with one bursary offered in each of the eight dairy regions.

“ADC offers a diverse range of industry highlights and technical topics to attract farmers,” she said. “But getting time off-farm, especially for women, can be challenging. All our farmers attending the conference took something away with them to help their business and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other farmers.”

And Ellie agrees.

“They talked a lot about managing change and that’s something we really need to think about,” she said. “We need to change with on the times and the environment around us.”

Ellie works with her sister Alex and her parents Peter and Lindy on the dairy farm that has been in the family for 30 years.

They milk about 320 Friesians, with Ellie, 22, responsible for herd management, calf rearing and general farm duties.

Ellie’s study focus has now changed and she has completed a Certificate III and IV in Agriculture and has started her Diploma.

“I study by correspondence with on-the-job training and Mum and Dad are pretty flexible,” she said.

One of six children, Ellie loves the variety of the work and being surrounded by family and animals.

In fact, she cites finding it hard to leave the family working environment as one of the reasons she ultimately chose farming over nursing.

 “There are so many different things you get to do on a farm. I couldn’t tell you how many people ask what you do during the day between milkings but there’s a lot more to it than people realise.”

Ellie said the sponsorship from the Australian Legendairy Women’s Network had opened up a great opportunity for her to meet like-minded people. 

“I’ll definitely get long-term benefits,” she said. 

Apart from being an active member of ALWN, Ellie is also involved in a local dairy discussion group and hopes to play a role in establishing a Young Dairy Network for the central west region.

“I see my future on the farm and I think the dairy industry has great potential. I was always a farm kid and I still love it. The conference was great but being in Melbourne was a bit of a challenge…I don’t do big cities!”

Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network was established to connect and support Australian dairy women. It is an active on-line community and can be joined at: