Couple Edz and Joed Bullo, both from Iloilo, are farmers that are currently working in Australia. Joed is an agriculture graduate who majored in animal science at Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College-Batad Campus. He became an agriculture professor after completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the same university.
He also worked as a plant supervisor in a large company in the Philippine poultry sector, but because his wage was insufficient to meet his family’s needs, Joed decided to seek employment outside the country.
Edz, on the other hand, was a homemaker and part-time entrepreneur in the Philippines before moving to Australia and becoming a dairy farmer.
“Our dream is to live and work as a dairy farmer in New Zealand but [Joed] doesn’t have any dairy farming experience in the Philippines. That’s why he applied to Saudi Arabia first to gain experience,” Edz shared.
It was initially tough for Joed to work in the dairy industry because poultry is his area of expertise, but his five years of professional experience in Saudi Arabia broadened his horizons as a farmer. It has allowed him to be proficient in dairy farming and be able to apply for work in his target countries: Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
Of the three countries that offered a position, Joed chose Australia because it came with better pay and benefits. He first arrived in Australia in 2018 and Edz followed him six months later. Now, they are living together with their three children, the eldest of whom also works as a dairy farmer.
A difficult beginning
Despite having no educational background in dairy farming, Edz was given a chance to be a dairy farmer by Joed’s employer.
Edz had a rough start, especially since she had no prior experience in dairy farming and was doing it for the first time in an unfamiliar setting.
“When I first got here, I was totally shocked with the kind of work on the farm. I remember crying because I couldn’t take the work, waking up so early in the morning, and no matter what the weather is, we need to go to work. No matter how tired we are, if we are on the roster, we need to push ourselves to go to work.”
She continued, “There are a lot of struggles, waking up at 4 am, working outdoors, and for a person who grew up with two seasons only, personally, winter is a struggle.”
Eventually, she got used to the job and learned to love and embrace dairy farming. She may not have the academic degree for it, but her boss makes her attend seminars related to agriculture.
Edz mentioned that they milk more than 900 cows on the farm. But with modern technology, such as automated cup removers used for milking, the workload becomes more doable.
“When I got my first salary, I didn’t really expect that my husband’s monthly salary in Saudi can only be earned here with 2 or 4 days of work,” Edz said. “It changed our life so much and we are really thankful to the Lord for hearing our prayers and granting our hearts’ desires.”
The pros and cons
When it comes to the working schedule, the couple works for a minimum of 38 hours a week and has two days off. They start work at 4:30 am during the calving season and 5:00 am during the dry season. Around 10 am, they go home to take a lunch break and return around 2:00 pm to work until 6:00 pm.
Edz shared that working as a dairy farmer in Australia allows you to have the following: high compensation, knowledge and experience in advanced dairy farming technology, job security, and government support.
Dairy farming is one of Australia’s most vital sectors due to the high demand for milk, therefore being a dairy farmer comes with stable employment.
“In the Philippines, it’s sad to say, aside from the low wages, the demand for milk is really low, so dairy farm workers are not in high demand. Poor mechanization also makes it hard for dairy farm workers there because they have to do it manually. [Another setback is] lack of dairy infrastructure. There are many good dairy farmers among us, we just don’t have enough opportunities [and resources].”
Edz also shared her viewpoint on the difficulties of working in Australia, which included a lack of social life and following the same routine every day.
Despite that, for the couple, working in Australia was a turning point in their lives. Several years before that, life was hard, especially during the first time Joed left his family for work.
Through dairy farming, the Bulloses were able to help their family in the Philippines, and invest in small businesses, three cars, and property. “Now, we are preparing to buy farmland. The plan is to take care of cows and to build a small dairy farm in our [hometown]. We are still looking for the perfect place [for it].”
Edz added, “Now, I can say that we have a comfortable life compared to what we had in the Philippines. [It feels good] when you can buy what you want and that you can treat yourself and your family.”
Moving abroad taught the family a lot of lessons, especially for their children, who now have a better understanding of how hard it is to make a living.
Photos by Edz Bullo