Maxine Moore is making it in a man’s world.
Dairy farming has long been a traditionally male orientated career, but that hasn’t stopped this 27-year-old new mum from making her mark. As manager of a 250-hectre, 170-cow farm in Queensland’s South-East, Maxine leads a seven member farming crew, comprised entirely of female staff.
Having first started work on Ross Lehmann’s farm five years ago, her initiation as a relief milker was a tough one. “My first day coincided with the big floods of 2011 and I got stuck at work,” she recalls. “There was a lot of localised flooding but no permanent damage – we were lucky.”
After completing her certificate study on another property, Maxine asked Ross if she could come back. “Ross said I couldn’t have my old job back; but I could have the manager’s job. I thought ‘wow’.” Now as farm manager, Maxine oversees a team with members of all ages and backgrounds, from a school-based apprentice to an octogenarian, all of whom work well together. “I find women to be compassionate, caring and patient,” she said. “We have the occasional difference, but that’s sorted out pretty quickly.”
This is undoubtedly vital, especially with Maxine temporarily handing over the reins to Emma Lowry whilst away from work on maternity leave. Emma, Maxine believes, is a prime example of the growing female presence in the industry. “Until six months ago she had no exposure to the dairy industry. For her to be basically managing a farm now is quite an achievement which comes down to her personality and wanting to learn more.”
As with many other male-associated and dominated roles, Maxine still gets some surprise responses to her managerial position. “Being 27 and being female you do get a few odd looks when people discover you’re the manager,” she said. “A lot of our reps are men in their 40s. They ask where the manager is and look a bit shocked when they realise it’s me.”
The support that farm owner Ross Lehrann provides his team is empowering, allowing for the confidence needed to do their jobs. “Sometimes they [company representatives] might go to Ross and he’ll send them back to me. It’s very rewarding that Ross gives us that support and has confidence in the job we do.”
Time away from the farm for Maxine is filled by her husband Tim and new-born daughter Ashleigh on their family lucerne and cropping farm. Having grown up a country girl on her family’s dairy farm in the Atherton Tableland, Maxine hopes that Ashleigh will enjoy the same rural lifestyle and inherit her mother’s love of showing cows, a trait that earned Maxine the nickname `jersey girl’ during school. Jersey Cows of course remain Maxine’s favourite breed. “That was the breed my great-grandfather started with and my grandfather and father continued,” she said. “I still have a soft spot for jerseys.”
In addition to her farming work and her new full-time job as a mother, Maxine also makes time to actively support the Legendairy Communications Initiative, which works to raise the profile and reputation of the dairy industry. In this role you’ll find her sitting on the state and local steering committee of the Young Dairy Network.
“You can never have enough exposure to dairy,” she said. “I think a lot of people in the city still believe milk comes out of a bottle and it just appears there.”
Words by Ingrid Johansen