A publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

Taking cow fertility into cyberspace

The Victorian Government has made a move into the world of blogging in a bid to connect with dairy farmers.

Words by Ali Winters
 
Veterinarian and blogger Ee Cheng Ooi: whipping up dairy news in a blog.

Veterinarian and blogger Ee Cheng Ooi: whipping up dairy news in a blog.

The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) has teamed up with co-funder and industry partner Dairy Australia to launch a pilot blog on cow fertility.

The Dairy Fertility Investigator was the idea of department veterinarian Ee Cheng Ooi and will connect Victoria’s 6000 farmers in an online community.

Dr Ooi, a “dairy extension” officer based in the department’s Warrnambool branch, suggested an online blog could offer an alternative communication channel for farmers unable to attend workshops and seminars.

Her supervisor, Dr Sarah Chaplin, said the department had long been searching for new ways to better connect with farmers.

“What we’re trying to do is tap into the emerging farmers’ space; younger farmers who are already familiar using social media online technologies.” — veterinarian Ee Cheng Ooi

“Not all farmers like to come to information groups and workshops or can actually make it to them due to where they live and the running of their farm,” Dr Chaplin said. “But we do know that many like to seek their own information by scouring the Internet.”

However, Dr Ooi said not everyone had been as keen as Dr Chaplin to take cow fertility into cyberspace.

“It’s been very difficult getting the whole thing up and running,” she said. “It was hard to explain what a blog is, and assure them [the DEDJTR] about the risks.”

After developing risk management and governance plans, as well as a communications strategy, the site was accepted, with strict approval protocols.

“I’ve been really keen to have my own voice and to say things that I think are interesting. It’s an opportunity to move away from the more formal stuff being written for departmental dairy extension,” Dr Ooi said.

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Dr Chaplin agrees: “Although Ee is representing the government and Dairy Australia, we’re seeing reproduction issues through her eyes.

“There is an illusion that Ee is writing off the top of her head but we have very strong processes sitting behind everything that she publishes.”

Dr Ooi said she fought hard to make sure that the approval processes were not “lengthy”.

“What we’re trying to do is tap into the emerging farmers’ space; younger farmers who are already familiar using social media online technologies,” she said. “Farmers tend to like learning from other farmers. They feel like they have a practical view of what is going on on the farm.”

A recent post was about Karina Glass, a dairy farmer from Strathmerton who is trialling the use of fortified milk and a five-week weaning system.

Dr Chaplin says herd reproduction is very complicated. “That’s why fertility as a blog topic has a lot of potential because we can cover a lot of different aspects in a blogging platform.”

The Dairy Fertility Investigator will be reviewed in December.

► An edited version of this story also appeared in The Warrnambool Standard.

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