Fresh out of university, Dan joined the Victorian Department of Agriculture where he worked on farm systems and farm business analysis in the dairy industry for 14 years, initially in Kyabram in northern Victoria and later in Gippsland which has been home for the last 18 years.
Dan also owned a consulting business for 12 years which specialised in farm business management for the dairy industry. After working with RMCG as a sub-contractor, he joined the team as an agricultural consultant in March 2022.
“I enjoy the multi-disciplinary aspects of working in the agriculture industry – the biological systems, the economics, the people and the environment – and the complexities of bringing all of that together,” he said.
“I’ve always enjoyed the livestock industries and dairy is a great industry to work in because so many farmers are happy to share information. It’s a good learning environment as a lot has changed in the dairy industry over the last few decades. There is quite a bit of complexity which makes the work intellectually challenging.”
While he doesn’t call himself an ‘economist’, Dan completed a Masters in agricultural economics and has applied this knowledge both at RMCG and in previous roles.
Economic analyses are often used to assess the value of innovations in agriculture and form the crux of Dan’s recent project highlights.
“Understanding economics is an important part of understanding a system and a business. One of my project highlights is looking at the economics of adapting to climate change, as well as the financial performance of robotic milking systems for dairy farms which is quite interesting,” he explained.
“The cows come in voluntarily to get milked and while the automated process doesn’t avoid labour entirely, it does take the repetitiveness out of it. The voluntary movement of the cows also makes it quite a different challenge to manage for farmers.
“While I can see a place for more automation in agriculture, it won’t replace the need for labour. The change is happening slowly and for the animal industries, it is likely that we will see more careers and jobs focused on data monitoring and making decisions based on that data.”
Climate change is a hot topic across the globe and Dan enjoys looking at the impacts of climate change in agriculture and analysing adaptation options for the dairy industry to help secure its future.
“The dairy industry has become more diverse over time and these systems will continue to evolve in different regions and climates, which means the potential solutions to climate change adaptation will suit some operations more than others,” he said.
“I’d like to see agriculture in Australia develop into a more sustainable industry – from an environmental, economic and people perspective – with the skills and planning to manage a variable operating environment as best they can.”
This article was published on National Agriculture Day 2022.