Shannon Notter farms in a picturesque valley of the Otways at Carlisle River but a Nuffield Scholarship has opened her eyes to the bigger picture of dairy farming around the world.
Shannon’s Nuffield Scholarship supported by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation has helped her to understand all farmers are dealing with similar challenges.
“Hopefully the dairy industry develops a strong strategic direction to help farmers into the future,” she said. “As margins are getting smaller, each individual business is having to focus more on profitability to be viable. The industry has a number of ways they can encourage farmers to lift business acumen, but ultimately it is the decision makers in a business that need to set realistic and achievable goals.”
Running the family farm or the past five years, the 32-year-old New Zealand native is used to facing challenges and always looking for opportunities to grow.
Shannon’s research topic for the scholarship centred on what the dairy industry can do to help farmers focus on profitability and the factors affecting farmer uptake of information.
Shannon saw the scholarship as an opportunity to push outside her comfort zone and learn about agriculture around the world.
She was part of a six-week group trip to USA, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Kenya and South Africa and spent an extra eight weeks in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and the USA.
“Nuffield has given me a great network of contacts all around the world and I have learnt about farm businesses in a number of different countries,” she said.
“As a younger person in the industry, I now have a number a people that I consider as mentors and I can pick up the phone to chat with them about anything – personal, business, industry related or otherwise.
“Initially I nervous about ringing or emailing people but Nuffield opens so many doors and you quickly realise people will make time and be really welcoming.”
Shannon said her time away from the farm helped her to better understand her own personality while learning from different farming systems with ideas she could implement at home.
“It really made me see what is achievable and pushed me to set goals and targets for my own business,” she said.
The Nuffield also inspired Shannon to become more involved with the UDV, and her farm has been selected as a WestVic Dairy Focus Farm for the next two years. “This was a decision I made after my travel to help me to achieve goals I have for my business,” she said. “People within our industry are so willing to help and want to see others do well, and hopefully it will help me and my farm.”
Shannon aims to improve productivity of her 500 cows, simplify management and improve efficiencies to create a sustainable and profitable business.
She admits that adding the scholarship and Focus Farm to her already hectic lifestyle has been tiring, but they will ultimately help her farming career.
“I’ve always done things to push myself out of my comfort zone. When I get to the point where I’m feeling a bit comfortable, it’s about challenging myself again,” she said.
“Being the sole decision maker on the farm, my capability is what limits its progress but there are good opportunities for wealth creation in dairy and opportunities to be taken.”
Now Shannon hopes to inspire other dairy farmers to apply for a Nuffield Scholarship.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve never come across another organisation that opens so many doors and gives you such an amazing chance to learn more about something you are passionate about. It is one of those things that you can keep saying “now isn’t a good time” but just make it work and the payback to yourself and your farm business is massive.”
Shannon’s scholarship was sponsored by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation which backs programs like Nuffield to invest in people, science and technology to support a vibrant dairy industry.
Applications for the 2020 Nuffield Scholarships close on Friday, June 14. For more information, visit http://nuffield.com.au/