Leading dairy farmer joins prestigious honour board
From being led along the path as a child by calves keen to get a feed, to leading Victoria’s dairy industry, Kerry Callow has seen dairy from inside and out. And despite a few bumps along the way, this Legendairy farmer from south-west Victoria remains committed to the industry.
A former United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) president and the latest inductee to the WestVic Dairy honour board, Kerry was raised on her parents’ soldier settler farm near Macarthur.
“The only shift I’ve made is bedrooms,” she jokes.
She recalls being a tiny child dragged along by the calves and being amazed at how her father grew pastures up to the top of her gumboots. Today Kerry has a more worldly view of dairy.
Her parents, Ted and Nance Nunn, were always involved in their community and the industry and Kerry naturally felt the need to follow in their inspirational footsteps. “I think it’s just part of farming to understand what happens beyond your farm gate, and not just in your local area,” she says.
Kerry’s first brush with the industry was when her father co-opted her as the Macarthur Artificial Breeders Cooperative secretary.
She joined the UDV when she turned 18 – her father was chairman at that time - and 40 years later remains a dedicated member.
Kerry was elected UDV president in 2010 and held the position for more than two years. She cites as a highlight, her work with former president Chris Griffin to bring the UDV back to financial viability and to focus the policy council on the “nuts and bolts issues”.
She was also involved with setting up DemoDAIRY, the Herd Test Association and WestVic Dairy’s ‘Down the Track’ project.
“I never sought out positions; they tended to evolve,” Kerry said. “Generally I had the support of the farmers I represented; they seem to like to volunteer you for jobs.”
Her habit of “expressing my views” may have encouraged that, and occasionally got her into trouble, but she didn‘t mind and encourages others to get behind the UDV and the broader industry.
While understanding farming is more pressured today, Kerry says farmers would benefit and understand more about the organisations if they got more actively involved in the UDV and Dairy Australia programs.
“Dairy Australia runs some brilliant programs that offer great tools to young people coming into the industry, and Legendairy is a direct response to farmers asking Dairy Australia to do more to promote the industry.
“Organisations don’t run on fresh air; they need arms and legs to run them.”
Kerry says her inside involvement has given her valuable insights, although the honour board recognition was a surprise.
“You don’t do this work for recognition; you do it because someone has to do it and I’ve got a lot out of it.
“I’ve seen a side of the industry that most people are unaware of and met a lot of great people. The UDV and Dairy Australia staff who work in the background are fantastic and they all look at it as their industry. They’re as proud of it as any dairy farmer is.”
Kerry remains a committed dairy farmer and enjoys the daily challenge of running her 94-hectare, 160-cow property.
She says farming is much more complicated and professional today compared to when she started. “A lot of people think all you do is milk cows at either end of the day; the reality is that you’re running a business.”
Kerry admits to being “pretty gutted” by the recent retrospective milk price cuts but plans to stick it out and says the long-term future of the industry remains positive.
“People say if you don’t like it get out but you’ve got to be able to sell. Farms don’t sell overnight, even in good times.”
One trait all farmers need is resilience and Kerry has plenty of it.
“While the dairy industry has always dipped, it seems to be dipping more frequently in recent years but you’ve got to keep things in perspective and ride through it.
“We’ve got to try to get rid of the speed bumps that happen, but sometimes you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”