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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

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Published: 7 May 2020

Dev DG L2

The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) is adapting the way it engages with farmers to ensure important information-sharing activities can continue despite the disruption caused by COVID-19.

The TIA Dairy Extension Team host regular discussion groups on commercial dairy farms around Tasmania, providing an opportunity for dairy farmers to come together to discuss current topics, hear about the latest TIA research and learn from each other. Due to the current restrictions, these groups have switched to an online platform (Zoom) to provide an opportunity for farmers to continue to engage with each other.

TIA Dairy Extension Team Leader, Lesley Irvine, said the change to an online format had received a positive response from dairy farmers, with around 30 participants in each of the first two online discussions.

“Discussion groups keep everyone in touch about what’s going on in the industry and current trends. We’ve found that engagement initiatives like this are most important when industry are facing challenges so that farmers know they are not alone in the issues they are facing,” Ms Irvine said.

“The online discussion groups are a great way for dairy farmers to find out what’s happening at the farm down the road and to keep in contact with people they would usually see at industry events. Recent discussions have included farmer experiences growing maize in Tasmania, how farmers are adapting to COVID-19, and preparing for a predicted wet winter.

“We miss the opportunity to walk around a farm and see first-hand examples of the things we’re talking about, but the farmers have been great at adapting and finding new ways to share information. For example, farmers went out and took photos and short videos about cow body condition to share at our last meeting.”

Farm Manager at Blumont Dairy near Scottsdale, John Leech, has been attending the TIA Dairy Discussion Groups since moving to Tasmania in mid-2019. He is enthusiastic about switching to an online format.

“I try to attend as many discussion groups as possible as it’s a great way to get information, find out how other farmers are doing things and to bounce ideas. Being new to the area it’s been a great way to spark ideas and we have some good ideas to implement in the future,” Mr Leech said.

“It’s been good to continue these discussions online and I’ve actually been able to attend more frequently because there’s no travel time, and you can easily join the discussions from home. It would be great to see an online discussion group continue into the future.”

TIA, in collaboration with DairyTas, also embraced online communication to announce the winners of the Tasmanian Dairy Business of the Year and Share Farmer of the Year Awards, with two livestreamed announcements on the TIA Facebook Page that were viewed by approximately 2,000 people.

Discussion groups are conducted as part of the Dairy HIGH project which is funded by Dairy Australia and TIA. TIA is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.

To find out more about the Dairy Discussion Groups, contact Lesley Irvine on lesley.irvine@utas.edu.au or 0428 880 287.