STOCKDALE Pastoral assistant herd manager, 24-year-old Jack Day, is a young gun with nothing but love for the people and the animals he works with.
When you first see Jack, long hair in a bun, slightly rugged beard and working hard, you don’t get to see the kind-natured side of him.
But when you see him in a Busselton paddock with the cows, or “his girls” as he describes them, then you understand why he is so passionate about the industry and animal welfare.
Jack’s motto for working cattle is “you only work as fast as the animals you are working with”.
From a young age Jack found himself working with cattle on his grandparents’ dairy farm in country Victoria.
Although he moved around a lot as a kid, Jack returned to Victoria to help his grandparents whenever he had the chance.
About the age of five, he and his family settled in Darwin, Northern Territory, where Jack attended school for 10 years.
In his mid-teens Jack left Darwin to board at Aquinas College, Perth, for his final three years of education, graduating in 2010.
Aquinas was the beginning of it all for Jack and when the long weekends came around he would find himself in a car, travelling around the State.
“Boarding there with all of the boys who were farmers, I found myself spending the long weekends out on cropping farms or wherever they would take me,” Jack said.
He continued his ties with the farm in Victoria and on school holidays he would go over to give a hand.
“All of my school holidays were spent at my grandparents’ farm at Victoria – my mum and dad would send me away every 10 weeks and I would go there for seven weeks over the summer holidays and help them out,” he said.
When Jack left school he worked on a cropping enterprise at Mingenew for a year and then went to work on a farm in Moora for a year and a half.
After that he was planning to move to Scotland, United Kingdom and do a harvest season there, but his plans changed when one of his mates was working as a vet student on the Westland Acres dairy farm at Northcliffe.
“The farm wanted someone to give them a hand so I was going down for just six or seven weeks and I ended up staying three and a half years,” he said.
“I fell in with the family and it all went well down there, I loved it and I am still part of the family.”
In November last year Jack moved to Bunbury and worked on another dairy farm.
He said he moved to Bunbury because living in Northcliffe as a 24-year-old was not that fun and he said there was nothing there for his age group.
“Living in Bunbury I have been able to do things that I haven’t been able to do since I turned 18 and I have been in isolation for a while,” he said.
Jack has been employed full-time at Stockdale Pastoral since February after being part-time since last November.
Responsibilities at Stockdale Pastoral include a lot of the computer work and milking the cows every morning.
Jack’s daily routine starts at 3am and he starts winding down around lunch time.
“My grandparents milk 150 cows, which is very small on their 140 hectares and at this farm we are milking 663 cows, so this is a big job,” he said.
Data analysis is an important part of any modern-day dairy farm and is a strong passion of Jack’s.
The data and computer systems are quite complex and every cow is read when she comes into the dairy.
Jack said the cows were automatically fed according to their production, so if she is giving a lot of yield, she is fed a lot of grain.
“We can monitor how long they have been milking for and when they are coming in and I know we are milking for six hours and 40 minutes – that’s morning and afternoon,” he said.
Other responsibilities on the farm include feeding the calves daily and general management of staff activities.
Jack’s favourite thing by far is to walk through the paddock with nearly 700 cows and observe their behaviours and put that information into the computer.
In a short amount of time he can identify which ones are on heat and the ones that will need injections or medical attention when they next walk into the shed.
“I love learning and watching the animal behaviour and how they group together or act,” he said.
Data is a way to get optimum yield out of a cow by feeding it through the computer and it works well with the computer system to keep records of who is where and what cow is producing what.
Last week they produced 17,600 litres of milk in 24 hours, which is all computer monitored.
When he left Aquinas, Jack didn’t think he would go this far into the dairy scene.
“I always thought I would be working for agriculture but I didn’t know whether or not I would do it with dairy farming,” he said.
“It all really happened for me when I went to Northcliffe but the agricultural interest started at Aquinas.”
Despite being involved in broadacre farming early on, Jack reached the point where he was over driving machinery.
“I am a social person and I need to be talking to people and having me sit in that header for 12-13 hours a day, it was fun and I learnt so much from it, but it’s definitely not what I prefer,” he said.
Jack’s preference is with the animals and he loves working with people.
He said on a 4000 hectare cropping farm you could only have three or four people working with you, but the small, 1000ha dairy farm has a staff of 13.
“We all have a role and you aren’t alone in your responsibilities and here there are responsibility and opportunity,” he said.
“I am always learning something every single day, which is similar to cropping, you learn something different every single day.”
Jack said his grandfather gave him the drive for the dairy industry and his return trips to Victoria kept that alive.
He loves dairy cows because they are like having pets and were so friendly.
Jack said the work was still labour-intensive – milking cows for three and a half hours, running up and down the pit, cupping cows and keeping an eye out for anything that may be going wrong with the cows and the machines.
He said computers would only take them so far as human interaction was still a vital part of the dairy industry.
“I could always go and do the business side of agriculture, which eventually I may go and do, but I will learn better hand-on, if they show me what I am doing,” he said.
Jack’s future plans are undecided.
It might involve returning to Victoria to work with family but he said there were so many different paths he would love to travel.
He said if Stockdale leased another farm he could buy some cows and run/milk them in a share-farming arrangement, or manage another separate farm away from everyone.
Jack has conceded however, it would be difficult to get to that point on his own without family input.
“You need a lot of money to just bang a business out like this,’’ he said.
Celebrating his 25th birthday this week, Jack is exactly where he wants to be for the time being.
“We will just see where it goes, but at the moment I am happy here because I am challenged everyday and I work with a great crew and it keeps me busy,” he said.
“The DNA side of things is something I would love to get into more and I hope to do that one day with my own cows.”