It’s the cream on the dairy in­dus­try cake

The Riverine Herald - - YOUR OPINION - By So­phie Bald­win

IT IS a long way from the dairy farm to Can­berra, but for former Gun­bower dairy farmer Ja­son Smith it was cer­tainly worth the trip re­cently af­ter he was crowned Na­tional Young Farmer of The Year.

Ja­son said he was proud of the win, but claims he doesn’t feel like the best young farmer in Aus­tralia.

‘‘I have had peo­ple ask me do you feel like the best young farmer and my an­swer is a very quick NO! I have made my share of mis­takes over the years when it comes to dairy farm­ing but one thing that hasn’t ever changed is my love for my cows and pas­sion for the in­dus­try,’’ Ja­son said.

Ja­son pur­chased his first cow when he was 14 river­ine­ and it has been a love af­fair that has con­tin­ued ever since.

“The driv­ing force for me has al­ways been to keep my cat­tle. I love my ge­net­ics and this sea­son I am putting my sev­enth gen­er­a­tion Illawarra heifer through the dairy and I am so proud of that fact.

“Dairy­ing is a tough in­dus­try at times, but I truly be­lieve it is re­ward­ing to be in­volved and there is a great fu­ture.”

Ja­son is ac­tive in the in­dus­try and is cur­rently part of the Young Dairy Net­work, trea­surer of the UDV and is in­volved in the Jersey and Illawarra cat­tle so­ci­eties.

He has also gained fame for speak­ing out as a gay farmer.

Since open­ing up about be­ing gay and mar­riage equal­ity, he has trav­elled to Can­berra to ad­dress a Na­tional Party meet­ing, ap­peared on the Project and reached out to sup­port other LGBTI peo­ple in Aus­tralia's dairy in­dus­try.

Start­ing out back in 2009 milk­ing in an old eight-a-side mud­brick dairy with just 30 cows, Ja­son’s herd has grown over the years and now sits at more than 500 an­i­mals.

It hasn’t been an easy ride for Ja­son who has gone from leas­ing, to farm own­er­ship and is cur­rently in the process of en­ter­ing into an eq­uity part­ner­ship in Simp­son in West­ern Vic­to­ria where he now re­sides.

Ja­son moved from north­ern Vic­to­ria last year in a bid to save his busi­ness af­ter the crip­pling cost of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter forced him from the district.

‘‘If I stayed in north­ern Vic­to­ria and still sup­plied Murray Goul­burn I would be bank­rupt by now. It’s cold and wet in Simp­son for six months of the year, my per cow pro­duc­tion is less but the cost of pro­duc­ing milk is cheaper be­cause I don’t have to pay for wa­ter and last sea­son I was able to cut most of my hay and silage re­quire­ments for the year.

‘‘North­ern Vic­to­ria is a great place to milk cows but if you are start­ing out and with low eq­uity, it is very hard to get ahead.’’

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