Opportunities for university students

The NSW DPI Dairy unit delivers industry research, development and adoption programs that support a profitable, resilient and sustainable NSW dairy industry. We are currently involved in a whole series of projects related to things such as farm business management, innovation, technology and industry sustainability as well as risk management and emergency response.

We are offering undergraduate university students from a wide variety of backgrounds the possibility to spend some time with us and help us look at things differently, solve problems and have a strong impact in industry! This is a great opportunity to engage with NSW DPI and the broader NSW dairy industry in an experience that will enhance and complement your formal training and education by further developing your skills, network and experience.

What will you be doing? Depending on your availability, the requirements of your course and what is happening in NSW DPI, you will spend anywhere between 1 – 4 weeks (typically suited for a short-term placement) up to a year (typically suited for an honours project) involved in a project and working closely with some of the NSW DPI Dairy team members. You might be involved in data analysis, modelling, social media, research or development of training and extension resources!

At times you will collaborate and engage with different stakeholders such as other NSW government agencies or branches, dairy farmers, farming groups, farm consultants and advisors as well as Dairy Australia and the Regional Development Programs with a footprint in NSW (Subtropical Dairy, Dairy NSW and Murray Dairy). On occasion there may also be the chance to interact with individuals or organisations in other dairy states or regions, both in Australia and overseas.

Projects available at the moment:

  • Understanding labour efficiency on NSW dairy farms
    Labour usually accounts for ~20% of on-farm costs, but we see a wide range in labour efficiency on-farm (average of 76 cows/FTE but ranging between 35 and 140 cows/FTE, lower in the Northern part of the State than in the South). Labour has consistently ranked as an issue for dairy farmers over the last years.
    This project involves understanding some of the reasons or factors that might explain that range in labour efficiency on NSW dairy farms.
  • On-farm investment in the NSW dairy industry
    Profitable dairy farmers regularly have the opportunity to invest some of the returns back into their business. There are many areas where farmers might decide to invest.
    This project aims to better understand where NSW dairy farmers are investing their capital on-farm. It will also allow further insights into the areas of priority within the dairy business.
  • Case studies of profitable dairy farms
    NSW DPI is responsible for the Dairy Farm Monitor Project in NSW, that monitors 30-40 farms every year to better understand physical and financial performance. Consistently a small group of farms are performing in the top 25% according to ROTA.
    This project aims to explore some of the factors and management decisions that might explain this high performance.
  • Tocal Dairy monthly report
    The dairy at Tocal is the only dairy owned and run by NSW DPI, and it is used for education, research and demonstration purposes. The Tocal dairy business report presents daily and monthly information on the farm’s performance using information that is readily available within most dairy businesses.
    As part of this project you will collate the reports generated since August 2020 and help analyse data as well as extract key findings.
  • Understanding and managing the carbon footprint of dairy farms in NSW
    You will contribute to analysis of greenhouse gas emissions data to understand trends and explore options to reduce emissions intensity, while maintaining or even increasing farm efficiency. The NSW DPI Dairy team is also exploring ways to engage with more farmers to understand their overall carbon footprint and practical options available for them to reduce their emissions. If you are interested in the carbon and climate area this is a great opportunity for you!
  • Climate vulnerability and risk assessment
    There has been an increased occurrence of high impact weather events such as drought, storms and floods. These events pose a very real and serious risk to the NSW dairy industry and can be quantified through their occurrence and the economic impact that they have on the industry.
    As part of this project, you will contribute to a better understanding of potential vulnerabilities under future climatic conditions across different dairy regions.
  • Natural disasters in NSW
    Over the last couple of years, the NSW dairy industry has suffered the consequences of drought, bushfires, storms and floods.
    As part of this project, you will help generate a visual map that reflects the impact of these events, with overlay of the dairy farms across NSW.
  • Dairy farmer emergency response
    In the face of an extreme event some farmers might lose track of important decisions that are timely and relate to either human or animal health and wellbeing, or productivity issues. You will contribute to create a repository of best-practice emergency responses, that will provide farmers in high stress situations with a framework to guide decision making that reduces the impact on human and animal safety, health and wellbeing and on-farm productivity.
  • Dairy industry leadership and emergency response
    You will contribute to the creation of a lasting industry framework to guide the sector-wide response to natural disasters, that will lead to the better coordination, allocation of roles, responsibilities, resources and enable effective data sharing and communication across government, industry and local communities.
  • Animal and feedbase resilience
    Natural disasters have a significant impact on livestock and the animal feedbase. Natural disasters such as drought and flood are reflected in soil moisture levels, which in turn might impact feed quantity and quality and therefore milk production.
    The aim of this project is to generate a better understanding of the impacts of natural disasters on soil moisture profile and consequently animal production, in order to help dairy farmers develop strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate variability and disasters on the sector. The project also aims to test if it is possible for example to predict changes in milk production, or alert farmers to act, by monitoring soil moisture profiles.
  • Communications and social media
    The NSW DPI Dairy unit has been able to establish a strong online presence, mainly through the NSW DPI Dairy Facebook Page, the NSW DPI Dairy Newsletter, the NSW DPI Website and a series of online webinars.
    This project aims to help us better understand the effectiveness of these channels, explore other alternatives and together design a better communication strategy.
  • Supporting excellence in dairy service provision
    With a decline in farm numbers, it is increasingly difficult to find dairy-dedicated service providers to support and service dairy farmers, which impacts dairy businesses viability. Service providers also play a key role in supporting farmers and industry during adverse events such as storm and floods.
    The aim of this project is to better understand service provider availability across NSW. We will also try to address gaps in service provision across the state by initiatives such as highlighting those opportunities or needs, upskilling service providers or tapping into service providers of adjacent industries. The idea is also to better connect service providers across different organisations.
  • Promote the ongoing value of the dairy industry
    There is an opportunity to highlight the industry’s contributions to the economy, nutrition and food security, animal welfare and environmental sustainability, and custodianship of the land.
    In this project you will help us create a strategy to communicate the value of the NSW Dairy Industry that should increase levels of awareness which leads to increased levels of participation at various levels. This includes attracting labour to the industry as well as consumption and investment, all of which contributes to a more resilient industry.

These are just some of the opportunities we have identified, but we are open to hearing from you on creative ideas you might bring to the table!

For more information or to find out more about these opportunities please contact Nicolas Lyons (nicolas.lyons@dpi.nsw.gov.au / 0401 650 073), Leader Dairy with NSW DPI.