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 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.’’