A key challenge of agricultural research is how to recruit and retain talented people – which is vitally important to drive the productivity gains that are necessary to keep the Australian dairy industry competitive and profitable.

DairyBio and DairyFeedbase collaborative research projects are working together to deliver for Australian dairy farmers a more productive, resilient and nutritious feedbase and greater cow health, fertility, efficiency and longevity outcomes, and the right tools to manage both.

This step-change innovation will lead to higher farm income, improved sustainability and improved animal welfare – all vital for the vibrant future of the dairy industry.

“The brightest part of our innovation pipeline are the talented people working on these projects – DairyBio and DairyFeedbase are fortunate to have world-renowned Agriculture Victoria researchers as our program and project leaders,” said co-director of DairyFeedbase and DairyBio and director of major innovation projects for Dairy Australia Kevin Argyle.

“We know that to keep at the cutting edge of innovation we need to attract, nurture and retain the next generation of leading dairy researchers so we developed the PhD program.”

The DairyBio and DairyFeedbase PhD program aims to provide early career researchers – people who have usually graduated from Master studies and are looking to pursue PhD candidature – with meaningful research projects complemented by professional development opportunities.

“The program offers the opportunity to develop strong connections with the dairy industry and supply chain to maintain a pipeline of research talent into the agricultural industry and encourages that talent to stay,” Mr Argyle said.

“As part of their professional development we run an industry mentoring program where we pair each PhD student with an industry mentor who is an experienced industry professional within the dairy industry.”

Mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship which involves a career experienced person helping a less experienced person to identify and achieve their career goals.

Career mentoring can provide some of the most sought-after attributes that employers look for as the mentee gains industry awareness and firsthand knowledge of the challenges of life in the workforce.

While the mentor gains a chance to give back to the industry and for self and career reflection.

“The DairyBio PhD program allows participants to go from the purely academic research structure of the university to engagement with stakeholders who want to see the research being applied in the real world to solve real problems,” said past mentee Dr Mijail Karpyn said – who now works in a farm profit and extension role at Dairy Australia.

“The DairyBio program opened the door for me to explore the different job opportunities that exist for a PhD graduate. I have found my calling in life in extension and science communication.”

Past mentors have included dairy farmers, executive officers, chief financial officers, directors of dairy organisations and companies, and are matched according to the developmental focus of the mentee and their current career direction.

“I really wanted to help my mentees feel connected to the people and farms that would benefit from their career focus. I made sure my mentees visited my farm to see where the application of their research would be of benefit,” 2016 and 2018 mentor Bessiebelle dairy farmer and Gardiner Dairy Foundation director Naomi Pye said.

“I thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the mentor program. Not only did I meet the next cohort of dairy science researchers, I also met an enthusiastic group of established dairy leaders, from all areas of the industry.”

The next intake of the mentoring program will commence in November 2020 – subject to COVID-19 restrictions.

For more information about becoming a mentor: www.dairybio.com.au/phdprogram

DairyBio and DairyFeedbase currently have 27 PhD students – 21 at DairyBio and 6 at DairyFeedbase – and will be recruiting for additional PhD candidates from August 2020.

If you know a talented, early career researcher who is passionate about the dairy industry tell them to keep an eye out for future positions on https://www.seek.com.au/PHD-jobs

DairyBio and DairyFeedbase are the leading bioscience and applied research programs in the dairy industry and are joint ventures of Dairy Australia, Agriculture Victoria and the Gardiner Dairy Foundation.