Students lead the way for WA dairy
Cattle Club students at the WA College of Agriculture – Harvey are leading the way for the future of the dairy industry.
The Legendairy group of students recently completed their 2016 show circuit, earning a junior champion female title and several placings for their Holstein heifers and their parading skills.
The Cattle Club is a voluntary after-school activity that gives students extra insight into raising and preparing heifers to show.
Senior agriculture teacher and club coordinator Peter Gelmi, who started the club, says preparing the heifers builds students’ skills, reliability, confidence and self-esteem.
The College offers Certificate II and III in Agriculture and some students choose to focus on dairy. It has a functioning dairy which milks about 150 cows twice a day and has a registered Holstein herd.
This year students took 13 heifers to the Perth Royal Show and also attended the Harvey and Brunswick Shows.
Mr Gelmi said students often competed against people already working in the dairy industry. “For students to hold their own against those with experience is pretty impressive,” he said.
While feeding and milking the cows is the responsibility of all students as they learn about dairy, the Cattle Club students take particular pride in preparing heifers for showing.
The club was started because many of the college’s students are not from farm backgrounds and have little experience handling large animals. The students start by selecting heifer calves at about five months of age and by the time they reach Year 12 their heifer has had a calf and is in the dairy herd.
Along the way they learn how to groom, clip and walk their heifers to impress the judges. Some students even get to artificially inseminate their heifer if they have completed that part of their training.
The students are pleased to see a resurgence of interest in showing dairy cattle. Some years the College has been the only entry in the Holstein division but this year there were four competitors.
Students from the Cattle Club have been going to shows for the past eight years and have regularly found success, including national parading titles.
“We get really good support from the dairy industry and if in some small way we can promote the industry to the general public then that is a bonus,” Mr Gelmi said.
The college is also keen to produce a new generation of farmers for a changing workforce.
“Things have changed from employing sons and daughters to employing people who have some training and skills,” Mr Gelmi said. “We aim to produce people who can competently milk cows and look after a herd and do any job associated with dairy.”
The course shows that working on a dairy farm is much more than simply milking cows and covers raising calves, pastures and conserving feed, fencing, and animal health.
Mr Gelmi backs the Legendairy communications initiative to raise the profile and reputation of the dairy industry.
“My legends are the students who follow through and get something tangible out of this program,” he said.