Cows have always featured heavily in the lives of sisters Emmalea, Katelyn and April Wishart.
Growing up on the family dairy farm, Rowlands Park at Cohuna, the girls have always shown a keen interest in what was going on.
Whether it’s showing cows, rearing stock, milking, driving tractors or sowing, the girls have got every aspect of farm management covered, something that is a great source of pride for parents Rick and Tina.
The girls’ continued interest in farming is now what keeps Rick and Tina motivated, especially when they start to question themselves.
However the trials, tribulations and tough times, especially over the past few years, have only served to bring the family closer together as they negotiate their future.
“We all share the same interest and are a really close family as a result,” Tina said.
“The girls each have their own strengths. When they were younger Emmalea was the boss, which used to create a few arguments, but now they are all young adults and they share the load and work really well together.”
The business has gone from a peak of 400 cows to about 270, with Rick and Tina now doing all the work themselves.
“We haven’t had any workers for the last couple of years and it has been pretty hectic,” Tina said.
“We would love some time away but having the girls in isolation and home from school due to COVID-19 has been really helpful.”
Emmalea, 21, is in her final year of studying exercise science in Bendigo and is planning to get her masters next year. Katelyn, 19, has just started an agribusiness course in Bendigo. April, 16, is in Year 11 and completing a school-based apprenticeship in dairy agriculture.
“By the time April leaves secondary school all the girls will have completed their Cert III in Ag,” Tina said.
Emmalea said she always wanted to work on the farm, but her parents had encouraged her to try something else first.
“I will graduate at the end of the year and hopefully do my masters next. I think it has been very wise of my parents to encourage me to try something different and now I am not too sure what I will end up doing,” Emmalea said.
A future agronomy course has also sparked her interest.
“I have always been the one who has helped Dad with the tractor work and sowing and I would really like to increase my knowledge in that particular field.”
Emmalea may not know where she is going to end up, but she knows her future will involve some sort of farming and she does have plans to eventually settle in the area.
“I am sure one of us will end up on the farm — I'm just not sure which one of us that will be.
“Kaitlyn knows so much about the showing side and the pedigree of the animals, while April is the odd jobs girl and basically does everything from getting the cows up, milking and feeding calves — she basically keeps the place running.”
Kaitlyn is hoping the skills she learns in agribusiness will relate in years to come.
“I can always see myself working in ag and you can incorporate business knowledge into any aspect, which I think will be really helpful,” she said.
Her passion is the breeding side of things and she knows the pedigree of every cow in the herd.
And she knows every cow in the herd.
“I really love the animal side of things, including raising calves,” Kaitlyn said.
“If I don’t end up on the farm physically, I will still have a few show cows of my own because I just can’t see myself not having any in my life.”
Kaitlyn’s first year at uni might have been upset by COVID-19 but she said spending lockdown on the farm had been great.
“We haven’t been together as a family for a year or so now, so it has been really nice,” she said.
“Even on the days Em and I have lots of uni work, we can still help Mum and Dad out on the farm with a few odd jobs.”
She said the whole COVID-19 pandemic had helped highlight the importance of producing food in Australia.
Even though she is the baby of the family, April has the same amount of input and works just as hard as everyone else.
She said the past few years had been frustrating as she watched her parents struggle with the implications of the high cost of producing milk and the stress of water.
“You can tell what is going on and I just keep wondering why it can’t be the other way, the whole water thing just seems corrupt,” April said.
She would like to think there was a good future for dairying but it depends on lots of things including water, weather and milk price.
“I can’t really see myself working in the city. I used to want to do beauty, but I can’t think of anything else I want to be but a farmer,” April said.
She is looking forward to completing her Certificate III.
“Mum and Dad want me to do something else, but farming might be the only thing I want to do.”