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Sam’s mission to bring young people to dairy

Sam Nicholson is on a mission to inspire more young people to join the dairy industry.

The recently-appointed DairyNSW Young Dairy Network (YDN) coordinator wants to attract a new generation of farmers to an industry with a bright future.

“There are so many opportunities for a variety of jobs in this industry – you don’t just have to be a milker putting cups on,” he said.

Sam hopes Australia can follow the lead of New Zealand where he spent the past year studying agriculture at Massey University, after winning a Dairy Australia Farm Business Management scholarship.

“I was inspired by the amount of involvement young people have in the industry in New Zealand,” Sam said. “Young people are our future farmers and the ones with new ideas. We need to do everything we can to get them involved.”

Sam, 23, is one of two YDN coordinators in New South Wales and covers the mid-coast and Hunter regions. The part-time YDN job connects him with the broader farming community and he is still heavily involved in his family’s lease farm with parents, Geoff and Megan, at Lansdowne near Taree.

In his YDN role, Sam promotes the industry’s Legendairy communications initiative via social media networks and organising social and educational events. that develop and build the capacity of young dairy farmers by improving their knowledge, skills, confidence and leadership abilities.

“The main objective is to attract and retain young people in the dairy industry,” he said.

“A lot of people just think a dairy farmer gets up at a ridiculous time and milks cows, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Programs like Legendairy and the Young Dairy Network show how attractive the industry is.”

Sam says the capital costs of getting into dairy can scare some young people but he adds that there are good models, such as share farming and lease farming, which can provide pathways.

“You can start as a relief milker and eventually buy your own cows and build equity. I want to create awareness of these different pathways,” he said.

The YDN job was advertised while Sam was in New Zealand and he was so keen that he flew home for an interview. “It’s a great personal development opportunity and a great learning curve for me,” he said.

Sam grew up on the 300-hectare leased family farm and loved the freedom and connection to the land and cows.

“When you’re a dairy farmer you have a sense of being part of a community,” he said. “You get attached to the land around you and you build a relationship with the cows and nurture them from an early age.

“When I was at school I’d help dad after school and on the holidays - something I kept up when I went to boarding school and when I studied Agricultural Business Management at Charles Sturt University in Orange.

“The study helped me to understand more of the science behind the farming system and then put what I learned in the classroom into practice.”

Sam says there’s a confident vibe about dairy in New South Wales, though farmers still have to cope with environmental challenges and price volatility.

“Overall it’s quite positive,” he said. “The Free Trade Agreements with key export markets, the westernisation of diets and the rising household incomes in many Asian countries will create many opportunities will bring opportunities and there are a lot of resources to help farmers to improve their business and their profitability.”

On the home front, things are looking good for the farm which milks a mixed herd of 220 cows. “We’ve had a good spring and more rain around Christmas has set up a good season. It should progress to an ideal season,” Sam said.

Sam’s ultimate dream is to own a farm, following in his parents’ footsteps but expanding with new ideas and technologies.

“I want to always be open to opportunities,” he said.