Creating Opportunitiesby Lee-Ann Monks
Paul Judge’s life is pretty comfortable. For the past eight years he’s worked for Sam and Fleur Tonge who dairy near Casino in northern NSW. He, and his wife, Jo, have an 18-month old son and are expecting their second child later this year. A first generation farmer, Paul sees dairying as much more than a job.
“I want to have a long future dairy farming. I see it as my career but the pathway isn’t clear or automatic. I’m going to have to create some of the opportunities for myself,” Paul said. While Paul is not fixed on owning land, he is investigating a range of options for the future.
“We might eventually buy our own farm, but our next step is more likely to involve share-farming, leasing or managing a corporate farm,” he said. Paul was awarded a Winston Sweeny Scholarship to look into some of these options. Earlier in the year he travelled to Tasmania where arrangements for share-farming, leasing and managing corporate farms are more common than in his home region.
“There are amazing opportunities in the Tasmanian dairy industry at the moment. Factories are looking for more milk; the government is opening up more irrigation water to drive agriculture so there’s a trend to opening up new land for dairying.
“Landholders are recognising the returns from dairying and when they are ready to move out of daily involvement in dairying, they are considering options such as hiring managers, leasing and sharefarming. Yet there’s a shortage of young dairy farmers willing to take up those opportunities.”
Paul is unlikely to move to Tasmania. “The farming system there is very different to dairying in the subtropics.” But he did gain valuable insight into what makes a successful share-farming, leasing or management arrangement.
“The message I got loud and clear was there’s no standard agreement. The most important thing is to find the right match of people owner and farmer and to build the agreement to meet both parties’ needs.”
For now, Paul plans to look for opportunities closer to home, although he recognises he’ll need to think broadly, and sell the idea to landholders.
“I think there are a lot of dairy farmers in our area who are ready to reduce their daily involvement in the farm operations but see very limited options, such as converting to beef. They might not think of leasing, share-farming or putting on a manager.”
Another lesson from his Tasmanian trip was to involve an experienced consultant.
“Getting an agreement that works for landowner and farmer involves a lot of discussion, and some of the issues can be uncomfortable to face. A consultant can guide you through that, help you understand the other’s perspective and draw on their experience to help you avoid common traps,” he said.
As part of his award, Paul is also planning a trip to Victoria later in the year to further research options for furthering his career path in dairying.
Dairy Australia’s The People in Dairy program has recently expanded the content of its website to include tools, resources, information and case studies on leasing and share-farming. Visit www.thepeopleindairy.org.au or ph (03) 9620-7283.