Grabbing the bull by the horns


A SMALL collection of dairy farmers from Gippsland underwent a GippsDairy workshop last month.

About 15 farmers from the region came together to learn more about mental and emotional health and the effects it can have in the workplace, and how to implement certain ideas into day-to-day life.

GippsDairy is one of the eight dairy regions that make up the conglomerate Dairy Australia. GippsDairy provides services to benefit and advance the dairy industry and individual businesses, with the aim to work towards a profitable and sustainable industry.

The group delivers a wide range of services, including workshops where farmers can meet and communicate with each other and learn how to get the most out of their businesses, discussing ‘every angle in the book’.

This particular workshop, held at the Traralgon Bowls Club, focussed on mental and emotional health, how to spread positivity in the workplace and how farmers’ health could affect other staff or employees.

GippsDairy Regional Manager, Karen McLennan, said different types of workshops pull interest to different kinds of dairy farmers.

“It depends on the topic, sometimes different topics can engage different types of farmers,” she said.

“Our more popular kind of course is that we deliver ‘Cups On, Cups Off’, for new people coming into the industry; this one is a little bit different to the usual workshops that we offer, but it’s still really important because its about your sense of self and how you work with others.”

Ms McLennan highlighted the importance of the day’s topic, mental and emotional health on the farm, and how GippsDairy approached the topic.

“The big focus was around your emotional health and how your emotional health presents in your interactions with others and that could be your family life, your work life, whatever – which is very relevant across the dairy industry,” she said.

“Thinking about ‘above and below the line’, so some of that negative self-talk, that might mean that you are not as approachable, not as understandable as what you should be in a work environment.”

A dairy farmer from Longwarry, John Versteden, travelled to Traralgon for the event, and found the workshop helpful.

“I’ve been in the (dairy farming) industry for about 40 years, started off share farming, leasing, purchasing farms … we sort of went from 100 cows to 1200 cows in the 1990s, and then we’ve settled at about 700, farming in Longwarry now,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a self-development thing as much as anything else, because I think if we were actually in a headspace yourself – everything flows better as a result of that.

“Whether that’s your family, or your staff, or whatever it is, it’s about keeping everything above the line, and how positivity flows – it’s almost infectious.”

He admits that he has undertaken some GippsDairy workshops in the past and implanted their ideas in his business, specially ‘staying above the line’.

“I’ve actually done a little bit of this stuff before, and it actually works. I’m really conscious of staying above the line every day, it’s hard to do that some days.

“Watching how people respond to that, when you come across people that are really negative or want to stay below the line, it actually shuts them down when all you give them is positive stuff.”

On the implementation front, Mr Versteden said, “We try to, it’s a work in progress – we don’t succeed in doing it every day, nobody does”.

Ms McLennan spoke on the importance of the workshops, and how they get farmers to not only interact with one another but share ideas and network.

“Often at events like this, farmers will meet farmers they know, but they’ll also get an opportunity to meet and connect with other farmers.

“(It) is really important for the dairy industry because they’re working with a close, small group in some instances of employees and staff on the farm, or maybe even only with their partner,” she said.

GippsDairy is always trying to get ideas from farmers as to what they would want to learn, and from there they plan out events throughout the year and cater to their needs.

“We are trying to consult with farmers at least once a year to (say) ‘What do you want to see over the next 12 months?’ but we also just like to throw some curveballs into the mix too and just see,” Ms McLennan said.

“It mightn’t have been asked for but it might be something people engage with, for us its always a bit of a balance to see what attracts more farmers and what they can benefit from.”

The workshops appear to be highly successful and widely popular for farmers of all ages, and Mr Versteden would love to see more dairy farmers joining them at the workshops.

“I actually would like to see a lot more people coming to these sort of sessions … particularly young people because I think they’re hungry for this sort of stuff. Quite often, old people – such as myself – we’re already set in our ways I suppose, because a lot of this is about fresh thinking and thinking about stuff differently,” he said.

The full list of GippsDairy workshops can be found at

Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.