Milking all opportunities with UK stint scheduled

Zach RelphCountryman
Tahlia McSwain, of Chapman Hill, is this year’s Holstein Australia Youth UK Exchange recipient.
Camera IconTahlia McSwain, of Chapman Hill, is this year’s Holstein Australia Youth UK Exchange recipient. Credit: Kim Storey /Avalind Photography

The prospect of establishing a career in the dairy industry excites Tahlia McSwain.

Raised at the McSwain family’s Boallia Creek farm at Chapman Hill, 20km south of Busselton, Tahlia has had a life-long association with the South West diary industry.

The 24-year-old graduated from Harvey’s WA College of Agriculture in 2012, before moving back to Boallia Creek to help run the Holstein operation under the tutelage of parents Kingsley and Judith.

It is where Tahlia is forging the start of her professional life.

The passionate milk supplier has cemented herself as an important on-farm pillar at Boallia Creek, but also extended her work as a member of the Western Dairy Young Dairy Network committee.

Tahlia, a Southern Districts Rural Ambassador, has also nearly completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management at Charles Sturt University to accompany a Certificate III in Agriculture.

Despite toying with the idea of nursing after leaving school, Tahlia said milking 600 Holsteins on the family’s 800ha property was the right choice.

“There is a bit of fear to one day take over the family business, because I don’t want to stuff up but you can only grow from your mistakes,” she said.

“At the moment, I try to focus mainly on the dairy but some days I say ‘nah, I’m going on the tractor’.

“I normally do five out of seven of the morning milkings and a bit of office work, plus feeding and bringing stock into the yard.”

In less than two months, Tahlia is set to leave the morning milk duties to Mr and Mrs McSwain and the Boallia Creek staff for four weeks when she flies off to the United Kingdom.

The lively young farmer has been selected for this year’s Holstein Australia Youth UK Exchange program to work on dairy farms in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

While abroad, Tahlia will also take part in two of the UK’s biggest annual dairy events — the All Breeds All Britain Calf Show and South West Dairy Show.

She said she was honoured to be given the opportunity and eager to get a first-hand understanding of the UK dairy sector.

“It is such a different climate so it will be a great learning experience to see how they operate on the other side of the world,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what cows they produce and how they go about things on a day-to-day baisis.”

Before Tahlia heads overseas, she is travelling to Melbourne to compete in the Crossfit Major League Games — a gruelling test of strength and endurance — on September 21.

She departs for the UK that same night.

Tahlia discovered crossfit after playing one season with East Fremantle’s women team in the WA Womens’ Football League last year and said it was an ideal outlet away from the dairy.

“You need to take sometime away from the farm,” she said.

“It’s usually only an hour to go to the gym and on the way back I usually stop at the other lease farm to check the stock.

“I seem to be at the dairy all the time, so sometimes it’s good to have a quick break away.”

Although the dairy industry is struggling to attract young workers to the sector and promote itself as a career pathway amid dwindling returns and rising costs, Tahlia is not daunted.

“The more young people that get into the industry the more they have a chance to grow themselves personally and professionally,” she said.

“But, the dairy industry needs more backing and support ... it is hard to see how we can continue to go on like this and profit.

“A lot of young people in the industry do see a future otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

Holstein Australia chief executive Graeme Gillan said Tahlia’s passion, knowledge and commitment made her an ambassador for the nation’s dairy industry.

“Our interview panel were impressed with Tahlia’s vision, and how she intends to use the experience she gains in the UK to further both her dairy career and the family business,” he said.

“She will be a great ambassador for the next generation of the dairy industry in Australia overseas.”

The exchange program’s return leg will take place in Australia early next year, with a young UK dairy farmer working with Holstein Australia members in Victoria, South Australia and WA for a month.

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