Meet Casey Dahl who lives breathes and talks agriculture

Today’s guest blog comes Queensland beef farmer and university student Casey Dahl

Each of us have an area that we focus our efforts on to become experts, whether this be cattle reproduction, soil health, disease control or spreading information to people outside of agriculture. If we imagine our industry as a pie, our area of expertise makes up just one little slice of this pie, and if you’re like me and just starting out, you’re still on the outer rim! As we learn more we start to fill in our slice, but we’ll never be able to cover all of the knowledge for even our own slice, let alone all the rest of the pie/industry! This means we need to work together with people from all different sectors, sharing knowledge and ideas to fill in the entire pie, and to keep it growing larger. The bigger and better our Agricultural industry gets, the more our pie will grow and soon everyone will want a piece of it. But this won’t come unless we work together to share what we know. We need to share how wonderful agriculture is, how beautiful the land is, and how passionate we are about it. It doesn’t matter what part each of us take in doing it, but we need to remember that working together is by far the most effective way.

Casey Dahl Profile Picture

Agriculture is my everything!

My story begins with my arrival on a beef cattle property near Baralaba in Central Queensland around 22 years ago. My parents Des and Karen Dahl both came from agricultural backgrounds. Dad is the third generation of Dahl’s to run beef cattle on our land, and my mother, is the daughter of a cereal grain farmer on the Darling Downs in South-Eastern Queensland. I was my parents’ second child, and I grew up wanting to do everything that my older brother Mick could do. Growing up on the land was great. Looking back, I see the freedom and the opportunities I was allowed. From learning to ride horses to having pet poddy calves, every day was a chance to learn life lessons, even if I didn’t realise that at the time.

Casey Dahl(15)Casey Dahl(17)

Me with one of our many poddy calves growing up, and my brother and I helping out with the fencing.

I was home-schooled through the school of the air until year 3 when I started attending the local school, the Baralaba State School. I joined my cousins each day for the few hours round bus trip to school. This was fantastic because it meant there were opportunities to build cubbies and play other games when we were dropped off at the end of the school bus line; it was always girls verse boys of course!

At the age of 14 I went off to boarding school in Rockhampton. It was at boarding school that I first started to feel the tug of home. I missed my family, my animals and my freedom. However, now in high school I just assumed I would leave school and pursue another career, not one in Agriculture. There were numerous options. Would I be an occupational therapist, or maybe a physiotherapist or even an architect? It was always in the back of my mind that one day I would return to the land, but that would be after a career somewhere else.

The end of school came around, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I decided a gap year in England would give me a chance to think about career options a little longer. Working in a country boarding school in Suffolk I soon started to realise a few things:

  1. Snow is fun for about three days. Three months of working in the snow teaching netball on the other hand, really makes you miss the Australian climate.
  2. That there is very little your mum can do for you when you get sick on the other side of the world. All of a sudden I was very responsible for looking after myself.
  3. If I thought I missed home when I was at boarding school, it was nothing compared to how I felt now. I missed my family, friends, space, sunshine…and the list goes on.

But I soon started to settle-in and I started to notice other things. I met a group of English young farmers, and judging by the RM Williams jeans and belts they wore I gathered that they must be good people. I started to realise how much I had to talk to them about in regards to agriculture. We compared our industries, and how differently they operated in our respective countries. It was great! In my time off from work I travelled up to the Scottish border to stay with family relatives. It just so happened that they were largely involved in agriculture. I was given tours of peoples farms, and taken to cattle sales, and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of farming. It was during my year away that I became aware of how much I enjoyed being around people involved in agriculture. These people wanted to learn about how we operated in Australia, and wanted to show me how they ran successful agricultural businesses in the UK. It was all about sharing knowledge, and learning more. I also realised how tough Aussie farmers have it. Subsidies were big throughout Europe for farmers, and they generally didn’t have to struggle with difficulties such as drought and fire.

Belgian Blue Bull Cold Sheep

Adventures in England:  A Belgian Blue bull at the cattle sales and some very cold sheep.

I finally returned home on Christmas day in 2010. It was flooding everywhere, and once I got back to our property the floodwaters made sure I stayed there for over a month with no access to the outside world. After being in England, the isolation was a shock to the system! It was so good to be home and doing what I loved though.

Casey Dahl(20)

At home with some of my Brahman cattle

In March of 2011 I started a Veterinary Technologist Degree at the University of Queensland, Gatton Campus. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career, but I now knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture and work with the people in it. At uni I met people from all over Australia and the world, some with a passion for agriculture, some having no idea about it at all. I was surprised by how many of, what I knew to be ‘city kids’, were interested in Ag. It was one of those ‘city kids’ that started to talk to me about the degree he was doing, The Bachelor of Agricultural Science. The degree meant an extra year of study but I soon made the switch. This degree covered all aspects of Agriculture, from cropping, to environmental impacts, and business management. I loved getting the broad overview of agriculture in our country.

I’m still at uni, currently in my final year. Whilst being here I’ve had many huge learning experiences. I had a part time job with DAFF working in Dairy Research, which opened my eyes to an incredibly complex industry that I knew very little about. I also have undertaken a 13-week internship with a bovine reproduction centre near Rockhampton, Rocky Repro, where I learnt so much about the importance of utilising breeding technologies to develop our industries. It was on my internship that I started to recognise an area in agriculture that I’d like to focus more on. I am now about to conduct an honours project looking at an alternative method to cryopreservation of bovine semen, from which we will hopefully gain some useful results to share with the reproduction industry.

Casey Dahl(14)

Getting dirty working in Dairy Research

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Analysing semen whilst on my internship.

And that brings us to the present day, so what have I taken from my journey so far?

Most importantly, it is that agriculture is a diverse industry which entails so many smaller sectors within it. Each one of these sectors is full of passionate people with unique skills and knowledge. Which is lucky, because agriculture is a fundamental part of human existence as we know it, so every one of those people is important.To use an analogy my academic supervisor told me just this week (Warning: I may have put my own spin on this).

Each of us have an area that we focus our efforts on to become experts, whether this be cattle reproduction, soil health, disease control or spreading information to people outside of agriculture. If we imagine our industry as a pie, our area of expertise makes up just one little slice of this pie, and if you’re like me and just starting out, you’re still on the outer rim! As we learn more we start to fill in our slice, but we’ll never be able to cover all of the knowledge for even our own slice, let alone all the rest of the pie/industry! This means we need to work together with people from all different sectors, sharing knowledge and ideas to fill in the entire pie, and to keep it growing larger. The bigger and better our Agricultural industry gets, the more our pie will grow and soon everyone will want a piece of it. But this won’t come unless we work together to share what we know. We need to share how wonderful agriculture is, how beautiful the land is, and how passionate we are about it. It doesn’t matter what part each of us take in doing it, but we need to remember that working together is by far the most effective way.

I am so privileged to have been born into an agricultural lifestyle, and have loved it from the start, even though along the journey It look like I might move in a different direction. I hope that in the future I can play a part in helping people on the land cope with the adversities we are sure to face. I also hope I can help people from a non-agricultural background become part of this industry, allowing them too to have a piece of the pie.

I love the land and think it is absolutely beautiful! In my spare time, I try to capture this whether it be through photography, painting or drawing.

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