Dairying, a way of life for this researcher


Meet Ruth Chalk, Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation Project Manager who manages 'Dairying Better n Better' the Queensland dairy industry's natural resource management program.

What does your role involve?

I manage the Dairying Better n Better program which is a partnership between Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation and the Subtropical Dairy. We work with farmers in small subcatchment discussion groups, helping farmers set their on-farm NRM priorities and helping them address those priorities through a suite of packages involving one-on-one assistance or delivery through workshops. Within the program there are multiple modules, such as soil, water, nutrients, effluent management, pests and weeds, and chemicals. We try and match farm priorities with community priorities, so for example Dairying Better n Better for the Reef was changed to meet Reef Rescue objectives- focusing on improving water quality leaving farms and entering reefs.

Where do you work?

I'm based in Brisbane but I still get out in the field, especially in south-east Queensland, working on soil and nutrient management. We developed a soil and nutrient management planning service and we have been working across the state helping farmers to improve nutrient use efficiency and soil nutrition and health. And of course, I'm on a dairy farm every day when I go home.

How did you get into this field?

A passion for the dairy industry. I grew up on a dairy farm south of Brisbane and am heavily involved in the industry still with my work, and my husband is a dairy farmer. After completing a Bachelor of Agribusiness and a Bachelor of Applied Science at UQ Gatton I pretty much started working for the industry straight away. Before taking on this role I was a delivery officer in the Dairying Better n Better Program.

What do you most like about your job?

Working for the greater good of the industry, helping producers to farm sustainably and adopt new and improved management practices which are focused on a triple bottom line approach.

Tell me a bit about the dairy management practices project

A great deal of research has been conducted in the efficiency of urea fertiliser, with some suggesting up to 50% of N is lost before the crop has any chance of utilising it. What is unclear is the amount lost through various pathways and the relative importance of each pathway on dairy farms in the Great Barrier Reef catchment. The project was developed to get a greater understanding of this and also to look at nitrogen inhibitors or treated urea products and how they can reduce the risk of nutrient loss. (see project snapshot below)

I'm just one of the team and there is a whole group of people including the JCU and QUT research teams working on the ground with our Dairying Better 'n Better team.

How will the project help dairyfarmers in the tropics?

It will give the farmers a lot more information in terms of understanding nutrient loss pathways. With that information we hope to put together a suite of management practices that will reduce nutrient loss and therefore increase nutrient use efficiency which will also mean an improvement in their bottom line.

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information on this project click here.