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Nikita Suridge's success story

Queensland farmer, Nikita Suridge works on a 900 hectare dairy as a Milker and second in charge (2IC). She has worked on the Darling Downs property for almost five years. Before she entered the dairy industry, Nikita wanted to work on a piggery.

Queensland farmer, Nikita Suridge works on a 900 hectare dairy as a Milker and second in charge (2IC). She has worked on the Darling Downs property for almost five years. Before she entered the dairy industry, Nikita wanted to work on a piggery.

“Growing up we had free range pigs. I went to university and started studying a Diploma of Applied Science, majoring in Animal Production. I did it for a year but there weren’t any piggery jobs at the time. So I changed to a Bachelor of Applied Science, majoring in Wildlife, to be a Biology Teacher,” Nikita said.

After University a neighbour put Nikita in contact with a local dairy farmer. Nikita had previously gained some work experience on mixed-farms while at school and university, but had limited dairy experience.

“I started working and I’ve been there ever since,” she said. “Initially I was on a trial for a couple of weeks then my boss asked if I was willing to stay – I said yes because I loved it.”

The operation milks 650 cows three times a day. Nikita works in the dairy and steps-up to be 2IC when her Manager has time off. She milks, rears and collects calves, checks the springers, and completes odd jobs such as fixing fences and silage wrapping. She works on a rotating roster; one week she works the morning-noon shift while the following week she works the noon-evening shift.

Nikita loves her job – she especially likes working outside and with cattle and is always learning. She works alongside a team of 12 employees and learns from dairy consultants who visit the farm to offer advice on nutrition and breeding plans.

“In my opinion, a good employer is someone who is clear with their communication, spends time educating and training staff, is approachable, makes employees feel appreciated, informs staff of any changes, and works-in with employee requests like flexible working hours.”

“Dairy is definitely the way to go for people who are dedicated, have passion, enjoy working with animals and love being outdoors. It is a very rewarding job,” she said. “Career success will look differently to everyone. For me, I see success when we set goals and achieve them. It’s great to see the farm constantly improving and growing and this would not have been possible without goals and planning where we want to be in 1 year, 3 years and 5 years.”

Nikita also appreciates that working in a constantly changing environment can be challenging. Monitoring cow health is important and her workload can be different day-to-day and seasonally – but these variations make the job interesting.

Off farm, Nikita is a member of Dairy Australia’s SubTropical Young Dairy Network (YDN). Through the group, she attends farm tours and social events where she can meet, socialise and learn from other young farmers. She has also completed an artificial insemination and euthanasia of livestock course.

“The YDN days are good for meeting other farmers and socialising. It’s also good to gain skills off farm and from other people who you don’t work with everyday,” she said.

In 2014, Nikita started studying the Diploma of Agriculture to further broaden her skill-set. She opted to study online so she can complete course work at her own pace, while working full time.

“I have goals of furthering my studies to learn more and use those skills in my job. I set myself little goals at the beginning of the year and post them on my fridge as a constant reminder of what I’m aiming for,” she said. “I set myself a high standard in my work; I want to be the best that I can be and give the cattle the best in welfare practices. We never stop learning; I have learnt so much in 5 years from having hands-on experiences combined with attending off-farm training days. I think these are essential to keeping the dairy industry progressing forward.”

Nikita’s future goal is to one day own a dairy farm, “the ultimate goal is to own and run my own farm or at least have my own milking herd,” she said. “At the moment, I am trying to find out all the key information. I have discussed it with my boss and I’ve been asking other people how to go about it.”

Nikita’s tips:

– If you’re thinking about a career in dairy, give it a go! While at school do work experience or ask a local farmer if they’re interested in giving you a trial or occasional work.

– Start off casual and work your way up: you’ll then know if you want to work on a dairy or go on to further study. You could be interested in studying a specialist field – like nutrition or reproduction – there are so many different areas that tie-in to dairy.

– You don’t have to be fully qualified to start working. Nobody expects a person starting off to be at a pro-level

– Good communication skills are a big bonus

– PiA allows employers and employees to go to one place and find all the necessary information they require, instead of searching multiple pages.

Link to YDNA https://www.facebook.com/dairynetwork

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