​Investment in knowledge: Sarah Saxton’s NZ dairy experience

Australian dairy’s herd improvement and genetics is ahead of the game, according to Sarah Saxton.
“Visiting New Zealand (NZ) made me realise just how engaged and passionate Australian dairy farmers are when it comes to breeding cows,” Ms Saxton said.

“We have the freedom of choice when it comes to semen selection in Australia, and although that can make the decision process a little more complex, it
means we have the options open to us to breed the sort of cows we want for our herds.”


Reaffirmed by her recent study tour across the Tasman to the South Island with United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV), Ms Saxton, an Australian Dairy
Herd Improvement Scheme (ADHIS) Extension Officer, also noted the dominance of cross-breeding in NZ in comparison to Australia, as well as NZ’s strong
focus on growing pastures.

Embarking on the week-long tour with five young Victorian dairy farmers, sponsored by the Geoffrey Gardiner Dairy Foundation, Ms Saxton visited a variety
of NZ dairy farms with different ownership structures and farming systems. The Van Leeuwen Dairy Group’s 1500-cow robotic dairy in Timaru was included as one of the farm pit stops.

Ms Saxton, ambassador for the Art4Agriculuture Young Farming Champion program, commended
the NZ dairy industry for its well defined and supported career pathway structure.

“We met with a NZ young farmer group who all had a very clear understanding about how to progress a career in dairy, from milking cows to eventually farm
ownership. This is a real credit to DairyNZ, as it is fostering a young and vibrant future for their industry,” Ms Saxton said.

Ms Saxton was also impressed by the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, which are awarded annually
to recognise NZ’s passionate farmers of the future.

“These awards not only commend innovative, hard-working dairy farmers in NZ, but also create a opportunity to highlight the progress of up-and-coming dairy
farmers. It would be great to see a similar initiative adopted in Australia,” Ms Saxton said.

When asked what advice she would impart to young Victorian dairy farmers looking to apply for the study tour, Ms Saxton replied: “You really need to think
about what your future might look like in dairy, and how you’re going to benefit, to get the most out of it.”

“It is a fantastic opportunity and a great way to make new contacts. However, you need to be prepared to work hard – it’s not a holiday!” Ms Saxton said.

For more information about UDV’s NZ study tours and application requirements, click here or contact UDV Project and Policy Officer, Yaelle Caspi: ycaspi@vff.org.au


Study Tour participants (L-R): Kerrilyn Bassett, Sarah Saxton, Hayden Hanratty, Gordon Nicholas (UDV Policy Councillor), Aaron Thomas, Jason Bermingham, James Goulding (NCDEA), and Will Ryan.


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