Megan farming mum Renae Connell has won the Young Farmer of the Year award.
Megan farming mum Renae Connell has won the Young Farmer of the Year award. NSW Farmers

How to milk a profit from dairy in a year of drought

WITHOUT innovation, drawing a profit from a dairy farm is said to be a tough ask across the industry in 2019.

But NSW's Young Farmer of the Year Renae Connell has shown it's not impossible. 

The Dorrigo district dairy farmer this week won the statewide accolade for the unique approach being adopted on the family's Megan dairy farm.   

A timely shift to Jersey, capable of producing A2 milk, from a traditional Holstein herd has helped Ms Connell to deliver a profit at a time when the dairy industry remains in crisis.

Milking 160 head on 123-hectares near Dorrigo, this young industry leader is paying back loans in a drought year utilising a pasture-based system supplemented with on-farm grown grass silage.

"Dairy is not an easy career path," Ms Connell said.

"But we are looking at new ways of getting the best return from our cows so we can pass on the enterprise to the next generation."

The dairy farmer, mother and wife, described herself as just a daughter-in-law with a 'fire in her belly to prove her worth.'

Aside from on-farm activities, she holds a host of industry positions and presents at conferences as a future leader in the dairy industry.

Recently buying out her husband Scott's parents, Renae and her husband and their two young daughters are now farming under their own steam as they progress and grow the family business for the next generation.

With a focus on animal health and welfare, Renae and Scott are investing in the well-being of their cows, investing in things like concrete creek crossings and lane ways to protect animals from lameness.

That is said to have brought added environmental and productivity benefits through minimising erosion and increasing efficiencies with a reduction in herd gathering times.

Her commitment to welfare and well-being extends beyond her animals, Renae is an advocate for mental health.

She said having suffered from mental illness herself, she understands the importance of supporting others in finding a healthy work life balance, particularly those in rural and regional communities.