Jake Seuren has just turned 21 and already manages a leased farm at Lang Lang in Gippsland and runs a contracting business boasting gear worth more than half-a-million dollars.
But Jake doesn’t plan to stop there. He is a young man on a mission, aiming to own a farm in five years and have three under his belt within 20 years.
His participation in the inaugural UDV-Gardiner Dairy Foundation study tour of Victoria cemented his ownership ambitions and opened his eyes to a potential new home in south-west Victoria.
But Jake’s determination is not just about growing assets – he wants to pay it forward to his father Michael.
When Jake wanted to work on the farm in 2018, Michael gave him the chance. “He’s working off farm so I could have the opportunity, but he still wants to be a farmer so I hope to be able to help,” Jake said.
The farm business has been through some tough times. Michael has been on the land for 20 years, originally as a share farmer, but the property was sold to a sand mining company in 2007 and only half the land is now used for the dairy operation.
The herd of 400 was depleted by a family break-up, the 2016 price crash, and a salmonella outbreak. When Jake came back to the farm, only 50 cows remained along with one small tractor and some old hay and silage equipment.
Since then, Michael has purchased 100 cows and the herd has been built to 180, and Jake purchased a bigger tractor to do hay and silage instead of relying on contractors, and then two more and other equipment to start his contracting business.
For the past three years Jake, who took over full operation of the farm at the start of July, has ploughed profits into machinery – now he has his sight set on land.
“Now that I’ve got the contracting business established and don’t need more machinery, I can build up enough equity to buy a farm,” he said.
“I’ve experienced the real lows of dairying, now it’s all on a high and I hope it stays that way,” Jake said.
He’s not going in blindly. As part of his Diploma of Agriculture, Jake has developed a business plan setting out his ownership targets.
Participating in the UDV-Gardiner Dairy Foundation study tour was part of this planning process, not only in learning from other farmers but in forging industry contacts and career development opportunities.
The dairy tour started in Melbourne, with visits to the UDV office, Dairy Australia and meetings with bankers and industry leaders, before moving to south-west and northern Victoria to visit farms.
While he got to see farming systems totally different from his Gippsland operation, particularly in irrigated northern Victoria, Jake said the tour’s benefits weren’t about the practical side of farming; they were about helping his career progress and networking.
“The key message I got from the trip was the importance of having networks and getting to know people,” Jake said.
“When I went to school, I never had any other dairy farmers to talk to, and there aren’t many young dairy farmers out there so this really opened things up for me, not just with fellow farmers but with banks and other leaders in the industry.”
Advice from farmers gave Jake insight into what makes a successful farm business and the risks to avoid.
“The tour gave me more knowledge,” he said. “I enjoyed going to farms and asking what they’ve done to be successful and what hasn’t worked for them. The farms we visited were very open about it.”
The 10-day tour was his first trip to dairy farms in the south-west and north of the state. He had previously been to Tasmania as part of a GippsDairy tour and is also developing industry connections through his involvement in the Young Dairy Network.
It deepened Jake’s appreciation for south-west Victoria, which is where he is likely to invest in a farm.
“I’ve always liked south-west Victoria. With the prices of land, it’s a lot easier to get into dairy compared to Gippsland and it has similar rainfall and soil.”
Regardless of where he buys, dairy farming will be in his blood.
“I never wanted to do anything else,” he said.