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Young Queensland dairy farmer looking to make positive in-roads into farmer health and wellbeing

Floods, drought and depressed milk prices are enough to challenge any Queensland dairy farm but young Lockyer Valley farmer Luke Stock is determined to protect the industry for generations to come.

At 29, Luke has his eyes set on a lifetime career in dairying but he realises not everyone is enjoying success in the industry.

Father of four, Luke is one of the young guns of the Queensland dairy industry. He is the youngest member of Dairy Australia’s Subtropical Dairy Board and the only Queenslander in the national Developing Dairy Leaders course.

As part of the Developing Dairy Leaders course he is developing a policy and will seek future funding to tackle rural health and farmer depression. He then hopes to launch a new mental health program specifically for dairy farmers to help them deal with their personal problems and stay on the land.

“I believe each dairy regional development program, beginning in the Subtropical region, should have a mental health expert with a farming background as a contact point for farmers,” he said.

“If I was having mental health issues with our farm, I would be reluctant to contact someone not connected with the industry. We need someone who has a rapport with farmers so they will open up and get things off their chests.”

Luke, a fourth-generation farmer, said there was a strong need for such a program in the Subtropical Dairy region.

“Many farmers are struggling. We’ve had some pretty ordinary floods, a bit of drought and difficulties because of our reliance on the domestic milk market,” he said.

“There are so many Queensland farmers leaving the industry. You’re not just losing the farm and the milk production; you’re losing that farmer who has got generations of knowledge to put back into the industry.

“We’re losing 80 farms a year in Queensland and we’re down to 495 dairy farmers – there were 1500 in 2000. It’s been a rapid decline and the industry can’t sustain those sorts of losses.”

Luke said $1 a litre milk was affecting the industry but he remained confident that new markets could be sourced, including proposed exports into China.

He wants to bring fresh ideas and a younger perspective to the Subtropical Dairy Board and hopes his development course proposal will lead to funding for on-farm mental health help.

“I love the industry and we have to encourage farmers to continue,” he said.

Luke said he and wife Rebekah have no intention of leaving dairy.

“We’re doing okay. We’re happy here and it’s a good lifestyle. You know it is seven days a week, rain, hail or shine but you have the opportunity to get away. We enjoy it.

“As far as margins, I still think dairy provides the best return for your land.”

Luke says the Legendairy communications initiative to build the profile and reputation of the industry is a great start in turning around attitudes.

“The name itself is so catchy,” he said. “The more people know about dairy the better but unfortunately those not in the industry probably don’t know enough about it.

“The industry’s good to its animals and we are custodians of the land. Whatever we put back into our country we will hopefully reap the rewards.”

He says success is based on sustainability and keeping up with technologies.

“If you look back three years ago who would have thought we would now have an app for mastitis.”

Luke and Rebekah farm with Luke’s parents Alan and Dolores at Glenore Grove. Their farm Daloran Jerseys is in the centre of the Lockyer Valley and milks 110-120 Jersey cows on 72 hectares.

The family supplies Parmalat and has been on this farm since 2002.

“Dairy is a good agricultural industry to be part of,” Luke said. “There’s so much industry help. If you’re stuck on something there are resources to tap into and your neighbours are willing to help you improve your farm.”

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