Today as a university student animals still rule the roost.
Wendy is in the second year of a Bachelor of Agriculture majoring in production animal health at the University of Melbourne.
On study breaks she’s home on the farm helping tend to the calves and feeding the cows.
“I think I prefer working with animals,” Wendy said. “I’ve always been around animals…sometimes they’re easier to understand than humans.”
Wendy hails from a large farm between Winchelsea and Dean’s Marsh which is home to a 600 Jersey dairy herd, along with a few hundred sheep plus some Angus beef cattle.
The farm, originally her grandparents, is now run by her parents Lyn and David and her uncle Paul.
One of five sisters, Wendy finds the farming lifestyle is exhilarating. “We all enjoy it and help out on the farm where we can,” she said. “It’s a good family environment when you have to work together.”
Following that old cliché about being able to take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl, moving to Melbourne for study hasn’t diluted her love of the land.
“I think I appreciate it more now,” she said. “I have to rent in Melbourne for uni but when I come home the farm has clean, fresh air, and I can go out for a jog. There’s so much going on but it’s peaceful at the same time.”
The farm has “a bit of everything,” although it’s dairy that remains Wendy’s favorite.
“I prefer dairy, but I’m not a milker,” she admits. “I think milking is the downside of having a dairy farm but I like helping in the calf shed. When I’m home from uni I like feeding the calves, rearing them and feeding the heifers out in the paddock,” she said.
If she’s biased against milking, she’s also biased towards Jerseys.
“We’ve always had Jerseys and I’m a bit biased to them,” Wendy said. “They’re peaceful and calm and like to come up for a pat and scratch. They’ll head butt you if you don’t scratch them.”
This love of animals is something Wendy notices throughout the dairy industry and she supports the Legendairy communications initiative to raise the profile and reputation of the industry.
“Most farmers look after their animals before themselves. They go to their animals even before they have breakfast,” Wendy said.
“Animals are the livelihood of farmers; you have to look after them to be producing money and your animals always come first.”
This attitude helped her decision making when it came to further study, although her end point career still remains a mystery,
“I knew I wanted to be in agriculture and I’ve always enjoyed animals and genetics, nutrition and the animal welfare side of things, but I still don’t really know where I want to be within the industry,” she said.
Wendy recently completed a two-week industry placement at the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Service (ADHIS), but while that was an enjoyable experience it hasn’t made her choice any clearer.
“There are so many more options that I didn’t even know existed before I went there. I might keep studying after my degree and go into research.”
“It’s hard to decide…everything’s so interesting.”
During her placement Wendy went to the Victorian Winter Fair at Bendigo to speak to farmers about the new ADHIS Australian breeding indices.
“They were all Holstein cows up there so I had a few stud breeders try to convince me Jersey cows are no good, but they didn’t change my mind,” she said.
However, farmers were more receptive to new ideas.
“They were happy to talk to me about their experience and how they breed animals,” Wendy said. “The majority were positive and gave great advice and feedback.”
“A lot were looking for more type in their animals, for udder confirmation and their legs. It was good they can now select on that, not just on production.
“It’s good to get research out to farmers. They want to learn new things to improve their system which will improve their income and the welfare of their animals.”
After all, your animals always come first.