Making her mark in dairy
For 18-year-old Tahlia McSwain, dairy farming is in her blood.
The fourth-generation dairy farmer runs Boallia Creek Dairies in Busselton, WA, with her father Kingsley McSwain and mother Judy Watkins, who is the bookkeeper and calf-rearing manager. 600 Holsteins are milked on the 800-hectare property, which has been in the McSwain family since 1930 when Ms McSwain’s great-grandfather moved from Victoria to set up the farm with humble beginnings – six Jerseys and 38 hectares as part of the WA Government’s group settlement farm program.
The business has grown considerably since then and Tahlia is already putting her own stamp on it.
“The farm has been my goal for all my life,” she said. “It’s been in my family. Dad has done what he wanted, granddad did what he wanted and great-granddad did what he wanted. Now I want to add to it.”
After graduating from the WA College of Agriculture – Harvey with a Certificate II in Agriculture in 2012, Tahlia completed her Certificate III in Agriculture, specialising in dairy production, through the National Centre for Dairy Education Australia at Great Southern Institute of Technology. The education has put her on track to help manage the business as well as bring in improvements to the daily operations.
“We’ve got a new ID system, we’ve lowered mastitis rates and we’ve brought in certain people to manage certain areas of the farm,” Tahlia said. “We have two full-timers and a part-timer, along with dad, mum and me. We’ve got a guy who manages pasture while I manage the herd and some pasture. Everybody has their own little bit.”
But she is also doing her bit to be Legendairy in the local industry, participating in Western Dairy’s South West Young Dairy Farmers group and Girls Growing Grass pasture utilisation program, two initiatives that target young dairy farmers.
“Girls Growing Grass is about getting the girls together and learning how we can utilise grass better,” she said. “It’s a good chance to share ideas with other young farmers.”
Tahlia has been busy setting up her own Holstein stud. After claiming top honours in several local shows, including the prestigious title of Grand Champion Dairy Handler for WA in 2012, she is also planning to complete a Bachelor of Farm Business Management in the near-future.
“Tahlia’s always been into the stud side. She’s got a keen eye for good cattle,” said her father, Kingsley. “I always said I wanted to be a dairy farmer but if the kids didn’t, it didn’t matter. There are plenty of opportunities for them.” Tahlia echoed his sentiments.
“I do love it because I’m surrounded by so many cows and I get to learn through a lot of hands-on experience,” she said. “I get to work alongside dad and try to follow and build on what he’s done. I just love it. the opportunity was there and I took it.”
The generational connection looks like a strong one.