Hindmarsh Tiers dairy farmer Mandy Pacitti was the named the 2023 recipient of The Bette Hall Award at the national Power of Women in Dairying function held in Tatura, Victoria during International Dairy Week.
The award is presented in recognition of excellence, leadership and achievement within the Australian dairy industry.
The first South Australian recipient of the award, Mandy is a trailblazer in the promotion of the dairy industry and has been instrumental in mentoring the next generation of dairy professionals, through youth camps, workshops, forums, seminars and showing.
Mandy and her husband Gino are second generation dairy farmers on their Fleurieu Peninsula property Misty Brae. They milk 200 cows twice daily in their herringbone dairy and are recognised Holstein Master Breeders.
Despite Mandy’s decades-long dedication to the dairy industry, she was taken by surprise when her name was read out as the winner of The Bette Hall Award.
“It’s the highest accolade on the dairy farm side of the industry you can get for women, so the fact that I’ve been recognised is amazing. I never ever thought I would ever be put in that calibre of women,” Mandy said.
“We come as a team, Gino, and I, and we don’t do what we do for recognition. We do it because we love our industry, we want to improve and promote the industry and we would like the next generation to understand what a wonderful industry it is.
“I never set out to be awarded for my efforts, however when your peers do recognise your achievements, it is very special.”
Mandy and Gino took over the family dairy in 1991. Mandy didn’t have a dairy background, and Gino encouraged her to do some courses.
“I am fortunate I had a husband who was ahead of his time and encouraged me to improve my leadership skills and knowledge of the industry,” Mandy said.
“The dairy industry had a very strong female leadership program going at the time, so I undertook various programs and workshops which gave me the skills and knowledge to support Gino on the farm as well as become an active member of the industry. It really helped my confidence.”
For Mandy, volunteering is a way of life. She has been instrumental in organising youth dairy camps, aimed up upskilling young people in dairy farm responsibilities and cow health.
“We ran our first camp in 2005 on a shoestring budget. We had nearly 50 kids attend a two-day camp based at the footy club rooms at Myponga,” Mandy said.
“We had a gamut of helpers and presenters, and the kids all brought their sleeping bags. We divided the club rooms by putting tables on their edges – the boys slept on one side, and the girls slept on the other. You wouldn’t get away with that kind of set up now!”
As Mandy and Gino were proactive in industry promotion, they became the media face of various organisations appearing in ads for Rural Bank, Dairy Farmers, La Casa del Formaggio, Fleurieu Milk, and the Royal Adelaide Show.
“We have been the poster family for many of the milk companies we have supplied over the years, and we have a tonne of great photos and memories,” Mandy said.
“We even did an ABC Asia Pacific documentary where we hosted a young Asian person to experience a week in the life of a dairy farmer at the Royal Adelaide Show. We were all mic’d up from five in the morning till midnight for a week!” Mandy said.
Another passion of Mandy’s is the Cows Create Careers program, a popular, free primary and secondary school program that engages and educates young people about career pathways in the Australian dairy industry. Mandy is a regional coordinator for two of the four regions here in SA.
Students build skills and knowledge through raising a calf while undertaking projects aligned to the curriculum. Students are introduced to industry advocates who explain the variety of career opportunities within the dairy industry.
“I love this program – it’s all about promoting the dairy industry on different levels. Nationally there are 23 regions that run this program and last year, we had about 250 schools involved,” Mandy said.
“About 14,000 kids went through the program. It’s no cost to the schools. Everybody volunteers their time to be a part of the program, which helps connect the next generation to the dairy industry with the hope of some of the participants will take up a career within the industry.”
Over the years one of Mandy’s favourite parts of the industry is showing cows at the Royal Adelaide Show with her sons Ashley and Andrew.
“For me, if we get a ribbon, it’s great, however the boys tend to be a bit more competitive about the showing. For me, showing is a really good way of connecting with the public and educating them about all facets of the dairy industry,” she said.
“When times have been financially tough in the industry, connecting with consumers and advising them how they can help – by buying local dairy products – has kept us going.”
The future of Misty Brae looks bright with Andrew being personally interested in breeding genetics, and working in the dairy where he is focused on producing the highest quality milk possible.
“Last year we were named in the top 5% of dairy farmers nationally for milk quality,” Mandy said. “Andrew is driven to improve the quality even more and achieve the gold quality standard.
Misty Brae’s Dairysafe audit in March returned all ‘A’ ratings for dairy management, dairy support programs, hygiene, construction and dairy surrounds.
“Hygiene, food safety and quality are paramount when producing a premium product, which we supply to the Fleurieu Milk Company, who in turn have been recognised with the 2022 Dairysafe Food Safety Culture Award,” Mandy said.
“There have been so many up and downs over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is our love of the industry, the cows and the next generation of this industry.”