Young farmers at ease amid dairy crisis
As a three-year-old, Frank Angi would navigate the morning darkness and scamper towards his family’s Yarloop dairy in anticipation of the farm’s daily operations.
“I’ve always loved it,” the now 22-year-old said.
“Ever since I could walk, basically, Mum always tells the story of me when I was three years old running in the dark to the dairy.”
For Luke Ieraci, 24, an exact childhood memory outlining his dairy passion is more difficult to pinpoint, instead recalling many days spent alongside his father, Paul, at their Brunswick farm.
“From a young age, I was always pretty keen on farming,” Luke said.
“I was going to sales or working with dad in the paddock — just enjoying being outside living life as a young farming kid.”
It is an affinity with the milk industry which has proved influential in the two third-generation dairy farmers building a decade-long friendship, after being introduced while students at Bunbury Catholic College in 2009.
Now out of the classroom and permanently on-farm, Frank and Luke are paving their respective career pathways within the South West’s dairy community.
Frank, under the guidance of his dad Tony and uncle Joe, is co-ordinating about 400 milkers at their 890ha Yarloop property, while Luke manages a herd of 250 milkers alongside Paul across 607ha in Brunswick.
“It’ll hopefully be a life-long career,” Frank said. “If I am milking I’m up at 4am and if I am feeding silage I am up at 4.45am, but I love it. I do love my cows and working on a bit of machinery as well, which helps break it up.”
Luke harbours similar ambitions to Frank and detailed his intentions to remain within the dairy sector, following a brief stint as a welder.
“I’d like to see myself as a long-term dairy farmer,” he said.
“When I finished school, at the end of Year 11, I thought it’d be good to get an apprenticeship and I tried boiler-making for three months.
“I had to pull the pin on that because I missed the farm too much.”
Despite the bold plans, both Frank and Luke acknowledged the dairy industry remained riddled with uncertainty in the wake of 2016’s dairy oversupply event.
The crisis forced many South West families out of the sector, after processors Brownes Dairy and the Parmalat-owned Harvey Fresh slashed supply contracts.
Attempts to address the issue is ongoing, with the Federal Government last month releasing its draft mandatory dairy code of conduct to leverage farmers’ bargaining power in negotiations with milk processors.
Frank and Luke admitted the state of the nation’s dairy sector cast a shadow of doubt across the industry’s viability.
However, the two mates remained adamant that their love for farming coupled with hard work would allow them to overcome the obstacle while promoting agriculture.
“Being the younger generation coming through, I want to help create a more positive outlook for farmers,” Luke said.
“In the last 10 or so years, it has been pretty grim and there has been a lot of negativity around the dairy industry and its future. It is our turn to try and change that.”
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails