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Dairy farmer Sarah Chant leads the charge for women in one of Victoria’s toughest industries

There was nothing poignant in the final notes Sarah Chant’s dad left for her before he died.

He jotted one down to remind her when to service the farm machinery. Another, about seed and fertiliser.

The messages were not deep and meaningful. They didn’t have to be.

At just 55, Steven Chant lost his battle to cancer knowing the family farm was in good hands.

His daughter would step up to form a part of the small legion of young female farmers who are successfully tackling one of Victoria’s toughest industries.

“Dad had cancer for a long time so I’d been gradually stepping up,” Sarah said. “We knew it was terminal so he started keeping a diary for me and jotted down little notes of things I’d need to run the farm.

“It wasn’t easy but it was easier knowing that it was going to happen. It wasn’t like I

woke up one morning and was in charge of a 250-cow dairy farm.”

But in a cruel twist, the young farmer would get her first solo lesson in the difficulties of running the business on the same day her father died.

“We got news of the milk price drop the day we lost Dad,” Sarah said. “I know it was terrible for farmers but it didn’t upset me that much — we had bigger things to deal with.”

In the months since the Murray Goulburn supplier has become far more comfortable the role, despite not having her father by her side.

“There was a bit of cost cutting and we’re not spending where we don’t have to, but having such

a fantastic season has saved a lot of local farmers who buy in feed,’’ she said.

“We cut more hay and silage than ever before with the good spring.

“If we had the milk price drop and a tough season it would have been a lot worse.”

Even before her father’s diagnosis, Sarah never had any doubt she would return to farm life.

The property at Warrion, 20 minutes north of Colac, was purchased by Mr Chat’s parents when he was 18.

“Growing up on a dairy farm you’re born into loving it,” she said.

A recent a finalist in the best employee category of the Great South West Dairy Awards, Sarah hopes to eventually buy the cattle from her mum and extend into share farming.

“It’s a job you can never perfect,’’ she said.

“You’re always learning new things. Dad would always tell me when I was stuffing up.

“The best advice he ever gave me was that it didn’t matter that I was a girl and that I could do everything a boy could.

“I’ve held onto that and I hope he’d be proud of me.’’

Source: Herald Sun

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