Legendairy champions ‘Show’ off the dairy industry
New South Wales dairy farmer Luke Micallef says dairy farming is more than just a job.
“You end up living it,” he said, and every year he and wife Jess prove that by giving up their annual holidays to host milking displays at the Sydney Royal Easter and Royal Melbourne shows.
While most people take holidays to relax and get away from their work, Luke and Jess are keen to spend time educating people about the dairy industry and how milk is produced.
“I love being a dairy farmer, but if I wasn’t I’d probably be a school teacher so in a way the shows combine the two. Even though we’re talking work, it’s really rewarding and we, and about 20,000 people at each show, enjoy the experience.”
This year was no exception. During the 2014 Royal Melbourne Show in September, the Micallefs ran their milking demonstrations in the newly named ‘Legendairy Milking Barn’ for five sessions a day over the entire 12 show days. The display followed a day in the life of a dairy farmer.
“We milk by hand but talk about how the machines work now and how technology has helped the industry,” Luke said.
After milking the cows, Luke and Jess separate the cream and skim milk to make butter and cheese.
“People can see where it all comes from and how it evolves into some of the products they are familiar with,” he said.
“The little kids are amazed by it. They think milk just comes out of cartons but end up associating the white stuff on their cereal with the white stuff in the bucket.”
While some parents don’t know how butter is made, many older visitors can relate to the traditional methods being used.
Luke has been showing cows at Sydney Royal since 1998 and was a member of the Royal Agricultural Society youth group before being asked to run the milking demonstration.
The Micallefs, who farm in Camden Park, about 70 kilometres south-west of Sydney, have done four Sydney shows and two in Melbourne and are keen to keep going, even though the set-up and pack-up times and show schedules take up virtually their entire leave period.
Luke is a proud advocate of dairying and supports Dairy Australia’s Legendairy marketing and communications platform, which was launched last year to raise awareness of the Australian dairy industry.
“It’s important people are more aware of the industry and know the story behind the milk on the shelf so they see value in it,” Luke said.
He is also passionate about getting more young people into the industry. At 26, he is one of dairying’s young champions and one of the few young farmers not to come from a dairying background.
Luke’s father ran a chicken farm in Camden near Sydney but he became interested in dairy when his parents bought a house cow and he found work on the ‘Marylands’ dairy in neighbouring Bringelly.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with animals. The Thompson sisters who owned the dairy down the road were really passionate about it and every week they’d spend time with my sister and me, showing us how to work with the cattle,” Luke said.
“They took us under their wing and nurtured us along. It was their support and passion that led me in this direction and there was no drama with my family about going into dairy.”
Luke achieved his Bachelor of Agricultural Science from the University of Sydney.
In less than a decade working in dairy, he has seen massive advancement in production, herd size and business professionalism.
“There’s a lot of excitement and new technology in the industry, like robotic milking, robotic calf feeding and GPS farming.
“Decisions are being made on economics, not just on the way dad did it. It’s a really exciting industry to be in and the whole community needs to know that milking cows is only part of dairy farming. Science and technology are also important,” he said.