When a girl has a dream to show her family’s cows at Australia’s premier dairy show, it makes sense to get a truck licence.
That is what 22-year-old Jess Seeliger, Esjay Holsteins, Eden Valley, South Australia, decided to do three years ago.
Jess has been attending and exhibiting at cow shows since she was three weeks old.
“I just have a passion for it and showing is good because you get to meet so many people in the industry and it’s a way of showing off your animals,” she said.
After helping the renowned Elmar Holsteins, Vic, and Miami Jerseys, NSW, show string at International Dairy Week for three years, Jess decided she wanted to show her own cattle.
But one roadblock was in her way; the ability to get her cows to Tatura, Vic – an 11-hour trip – where close to 1000 animals are exhibited from across Australia every January.
“No one could take the cows over because dad’s at home and I didn’t want to take them in a trailer,” she said.
So she got her truck licence at the end of 2016, and a month later transported her first team to the 2017 show where she took one cow and two heifers, but the real success came this year when she took two cows and two heifers.
Two-year-old dry heifer Esjay Attic Royal placed first, but the pinnacle was five-year-old in-milk Esjay Shout Rae standing on top in one of the strongest classes of the show, which meant beating the 2016 grand champion, Paringa Fever Opa.
“I went into the ring nervous,” Jess said.
“The judge started picking them out, he picked out another cow first, and then he pointed to me.
"I wasn’t 100 per cent sure because I realised that was second.
"I was pretty happy with that because it was a big class.
“Then we were almost in the positions to get the ribbons and he made the first guy slow down and stop, and right at the last minute he swapped us and I was in first.
“I just couldn’t believe it.”
Rae then went on to make the senior champion pull of the top four cows.
“I was so happy with her, even just getting into the champion lineup with her for dairy week, it’s crazy,” she said.
Jess’ efforts did not go unnoticed, winning the Holstein exhibitor encouragement award.
“She brings a team over, drives a truck herself from... the Barossa Valley, and has had a wonderful team of animals here,” IDW director Brian Leslie said.
Jess’s family farm is run by her parents Steven and Verica Seeliger with her younger brothers Luke and Daniel, and grandmother Ljubica all involved on-farm.
The 400-cow milking herd is run on 1200 hectares of pasture and cropping land with year-round calving.
The majority of cows are artificially inseminated with bulls from Semex and ABS, with heifers and remaining cows mated to home-bred bulls.
With a keen interest in breeding and reproduction, Jess studied a Bachelor of Science (Animal Science) and works part-time at mixed-animal practice Barossa Veterinary Service as a trainee vet nurse.
When not working, Jess spends her spare time on the family farm and getting the next team of cows ready for the shows.
“Dad and I pick the show animals and he loves talking to me in the dairy about the cows as we’re always thinking about who’s next,” she said.
Keen on breeding show cows under her own name, Jess started her own stud Jaybrooke Holsteins and bought two heifers at the Bluechip dispersal in 2016.
“I think it’s great to see other youth in SA getting involved in their own studs too,” she said.
Jess credits much of her knowledge and success in the show ring to the Haebich family and is giving back her time to help develop and secure the future of dairy in SA.
She took part in the Cows Create Careers program last year by donating two calves to Blakesview Primary School, and she is on Holstein Australia SA branch committee, the Mount Pleasant Show committee and helps support the SA IDW Youth Challenge Team.