Each year, as part of its commitment to helping ensure a steady stream of bright young leaders in the dairy industry, Gardiner Dairy Foundation in partnership with the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) supports six industry professionals to undertake a study tour of the New Zealand dairy industry.

Participants on the New Zealand Study Tour: Kerrilyn Basset, Sarah Saxton, Hayden Hanratty, Tour leader Gordon Nicholas, Aaron Thomas, Jason Birmingham, James Goulding from NCDE and William Ryan.

The eight-day tour takes these vibrant young people out of their comfort zone and exposes them to best practice in production systems and business in New Zealand. Giving them a deeper layer of experience which they can draw on in their work and community, and a broader understanding of what it means to be part of the global dairy network.

The 2015 group were highly motivated, challenged the status quo and bounced off each other in debate as they travelled between sites. They visited nine dairy farms, and a range of processing facilities and research centres. Since returning the learnings have proved invaluable.

Opening up new opportunities

Scholar Kerrilyn Bassett, a farm worker and student from Kyabram, has since been awarded Outstanding Student of the Year with the National Centre for Dairy Education Australia and Victorian Trainee of the Year 2015. ?

“I got a lot out of the tour”, said Kerrilyn said. In a business where she is often surrounded by older people she really valued the opportunity to discuss ideas with “young like-minded people” and to compare the Australian and New Zealand Industries.

Taking part in the tour opened up new career pathways. “I’d never thought of share farming before but now I know more about it. It’s an option for me”. She also gained the confidence to begin mentoring students in the year below her at TAFE.

For share farmer Aaron Thomas, from Binginwarri in South Gippsland “Going to New Zealand was always on my to-do list, but one of the biggest things I got out of it was mateship.”

Giving back to the industry

Since returning, the group has kept in contact and organised tours in their own regions, which has allowed them to create new connections in different parts of the state.

Aaron, who has a keen interest in dairy politics, also appreciated the contacts and networking and found the opportunity to attend the UDV conference and meet with dairy leaders in Melbourne “very rewarding”. “We are dead set serious that we want a stronger industry moving forward.”

Since returning he, and fellow scholar Hayden Hanratty, “fired up” the Yarram branch of the UDV which had previously been in recess for six years. Likewise, 2015 participant Jason Bermingham and 2014 scholar Brad Missen reinvigorated the Macalister branch. All have taken on office bearer roles.

The 2017 New Zealand study tour will be advertised in September 2016, to find out more visit the UDV website