Ally beats the boys on land
AS A born and bred country girl Ally Dwan realised early she'd have to "beat the boys" just to hold her ground in the paddock.
The 19-year-old laughs about how much she has battled her younger brothers to retain her role working alongside her dad on their Wildash cattle property.
"My parents should have had three boys," she joked.
"As the eldest I was always out helping Dad and I loved it.
"But as my brothers got older and more interested in cattle, they wanted to take over from me.
"So I had to constantly prove I was capable of doing jobs."
It is this steely determination and self belief that has this capable young woman planning on a life-long career in the agricultural industry.
When many her age and gender are leaving the bush, she has spent the past three years establishing herself as a quick-to-learn communicator in a rural work environment.
And she hasn't limited her involvement to paid positions: stepping up to take her place as the youngest member of the Warwick Show and Rodeo Society Hoof and Hook committee.
"I left school after Grade 11 to start as a customer service representative with Pursehouse Rural," she said.
"I was definitely nervous about it.
"My greatest worry was that I didn't know enough about rural merchandise to help people.
"And I think my bosses were a little concerned farmers wouldn't take advice from a woman, let alone a young woman.
"But I am passionate about agriculture and I can talk so in many ways this was the perfect job for me."
In the years since, she nervously swapped the classroom for the counter, her willingness to learn and her enthusiasm for the rural industry has paid dividends.
Yet she admits there are still odd occasions when blokes walk into her workplace and dismiss her ability to help them.
"I like to prove them wrong," she laughed.
"If I don't know something I will find out and I can do that pretty quickly.
"These days most clients know I will go out of my way to find information or products to help them with their business.
"Most rural people are happy to deal with a woman; they just want someone who knows what they are talking about."
She said growing up on a 263 hectares cattle property east of Warwick gave her valuable insight and an understanding of the importance of quality information and promptness.
"I think when you come from the bush you understand that if you are mustering one day and have cattle in the yards you need tags or chemicals that day, not two days later."
She credits her parents Jim and Shelly with encouraging her love of the bush, despite her tomboyish ways.
They encouraged her to work outdoors and never differentiated between her ability and that of her younger brothers Nick, 14, and John, 16.
"Mum and Dad have always been very supportive of my choices.
"Well they might have questioned why I needed to buy a ute as my first car, 'til they realised only being able to take one passenger could be a good thing.
"Seriously though they knew I wanted to work in the agricultural industry more than anything else."
Next year she will further commit to her favoured industry as she starts a Diploma in Agriculture in applied animal nutrition through the University of New England.
"We have a Black Brangus herd at home and I am fascinated by animal nutrition so I want to be a nutritionist.
"So I am going to study externally even though I didn't like school.
"I love work so I am hoping this course goes well."
Working hard and working to improve the perception of agriculture among her generation have always been important to Ally.
"I think there are closer links between farmers and the rest of the community than people sometimes realise.
"When farmers are doing it tough, it impacts on the price of food."
And she said bringing new ideas and energy to the industry's future was critical.
"I believe the rural industry needs more young people and my advice to any girls contemplating a career in agriculture would be 'do it','' Ally said.