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People leadership key to business progression

A passion for staff development has seen Kara Ussher become the driving force behind Bowralea Farms’ people management journey.

A passion for staff development has seen Kara Ussher become the driving force behind Bowralea Farms’ people management journey.

Bowralea Farms is located in Bowraville on the New South Wales mid-north coast. For 30 years, the operation had a share farmer in place; however, in late 2022 the Ussher family took back its management.

Bowralea operates a pasture-based, dairy farming system, with around 800 cattle. Anywhere between 400 to 500 cows are milked per day – depending on the time of year – in a herringbone, swing-over dairy.

Being relatively new to the dairy industry, Kara was eager to learn what support programs were available in the people management space.

“I wanted to make sure that we were giving it our best shot, starting a business. In three months, we had to get everything in place for the takeover from share farmer back to the family. It was a very short transition,” says Kara.

Finding resources

After browsing the Dairy Australia and People in Dairy websites, Kara contacted the Dairy NSW office and was put in touch with Project Officer Workforce Attraction and Retention, Tania Ketteringham.

“Tania’s been fabulous in giving advice about what’s happening in the industry,” Kara says, adding Tania was also key to Bowralea Farms gaining two trainees through the newly created delivery model by Australian Training Company. This involves them completing a Certificate III in Dairy Production by distance.

The Ussher family have been, and are currently involved in, a number of Dairy Australia programs. These include a one-to-one people management program and the Farming with My Team program.

“Farming with My Team has been a really good source for development for people who aren’t used to managing agricultural workplaces,” Kara says.

Kara recommends that if you’re looking to develop your staff management and leadership capabilities, start with Farming with My Team.

“It gives a good basis for you to work off, especially if you’re new to managing people, and there was some great human resource information in there.”

Key achievements

Although it’s only early days as a family-run operation once again, Bowralea Farms has managed to retain its staff and create a positive workplace culture.

“Our first staff member who we employed back in December 2022 is still with us, and he’s a senior farm hand,” Kara says.

“If you've got a good team – and you make sure your employees know they are valued – then you are much more likely to keep your staff in the long-term.

“That's where you get the real business gains in productivity, efficiency, and passion for their job. I think that's critical.”

However, Kara says the biggest goal for her has been establishing a team who have a culture of looking out for one another and helping each other out.

“It’s based around those family values that we hold so dear – hard-working, being loyal and positive, as well as being willing to give things a go and helping out.”

The importance of leadership skills

Kara says that in today’s world, you must know more than just how to milk a cow and where milk comes from.

“Farming is hard, physical work and it can be mentally challenging. You want to be a workplace where people want to come to work,” she explains.

“You’ve got to have good staff and you need to get positive outcomes from what they’re doing. You need to manage your risk to the business, the business owners, and your employees. When you're an employer you must be mindful that you are legally liable as well as ethically responsible for their wellbeing.”

Kara’s advice for other farmers looking to improve their farm team engagement and performance is start by better understanding your own leadership style and how you can identify opportunities for your farm staff.

“I would highly recommend starting with the Farming with My Team program,” she says.

“That one I thought was quite relevant and gave a good basis to work off, especially if you're new to managing people. Everyone's so busy, but if they make the time and make it a priority, then they will find they’ll get long-term gains.”

Outlook for the future

Looking ahead, Kara says she’d love to see the business be financially resilient, as well as continue to employ local people, engage with schools, local community, and veterinary students.

“It would be great to provide and increase employment opportunities for more people in our local area,” Kara adds.

However, Kara’s more immediate goal is implementing staff training development plans. Step one is booking in twice-yearly employee one-on-one meetings to discuss ambitions and goals.

“This is so we can reflect on what they achieved over the past six months. As well as looking at what the daily challenges are, set employee goals and discuss and plan training/development opportunities,” she says.

However, you can’t implement these initiatives unless you have staff who are longer term employees with long terms goals to develop their careers in dairy farming. Kara has simple advice for making this happen.

“If you want to retain staff, what's the first thing you should do? Look at how you can manage staff better – and be willing to take advice or consider the advice.”


Registrations for the Farming with My Team program – beginning on Wednesday 20 September – are now open. Sign up here.


For more information about how Dairy Australia is supporting employment and people development need, visit People, Skills and Capability | Dairy Australia or reach out to your regional team.


The Australian dairy industry is committed to providing high-quality workplaces that offer safe, rewarding and sustainable careers. For more information about our dairy promises, see our Sustainability Framework.

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