Jess Dempster left school after Year 11 with her sights set on a long career in the local abattoir at Cobram. She was following in the footsteps of her mother and father, who also both worked there. But after three years the abattoir closed.

While she was working part time in a local pub, a friend told her about a six-month contract on a dairy farm. Jess had never thought dairy farming was for her but she took the job. After her contract finished, she was back working at the pub where a customer told her he was looking for a full-time worker on his dairy farm.

“He really pushed me,” she said. During the next two years he pushed her to do a Certificate III in Agriculture (Dairy Production), Certificate IV in Agribusiness and ‘Cups On, Cups Off’. She joined a discussion group and the local branch of the Young Dairy Network. She milked morning and night and ran the farm when the owner was away.

She was one of only five YDN delegates selected to attend the annual Australian Dairy Conference in Canberra in 2019.

“I wouldn’t have come this far if my first dairy employer hadn’t pushed me to learn all I know today.”

Jess spent another year on a dairy farm at Corowa where she was a farmhand and did her AI course, as well as looking after cow health, maternity and calves. Today she is settling into a new dairy farm job in the Kiewa Valley, milking 400 cows. She does a range of things, from milking, to calf rearing, and soon to include AI.

“Now I really like it. I enjoy being outdoors and I like the cows – when they behave.”