A liking for cows, work … and Elvis
While the thought of working with cows was enough to put career changer Ian Bowns off a switch to dairy farming, he now finds the more he works with them, the more he loves them.
“They’re great characters and they’ve all got their own personalities,” he says. “I’m happy putting cups on cows and doing general farm work. I love every aspect of dairy farming.”
Ian spent a total of 30 years in the prison service; 12 years with New Zealand Department of Corrections and 18 years with Her Majesty’s Prison Service in England.
In 2005, New Zealand Department of Corrections went to England on a recruitment drive, and Ian and his partner, Lynne. were selected to come to Whanganui Prison.
Eight years ago, Lynne took early retirement from the prison service and started milking for a local dairy farmer. Ian vowed he would never do the same. “But then I started helping to get the cows in, then I started milking. I was coming up 50 and thought I needed a career change.”
He enjoyed working with cows and milking, so he applied for a position on Ben and Belinda Price’s 650 cow dairy farm near Waitotara, telling them in his interview he was nearly 50 and it would be a complete career change for him.
“I said I would give them one season, but I knew straight away it was what I wanted to do,” he says.
“Ben and Belinda are excellent bosses. I couldn’t ask for better bosses that. I think that’s why I’ve decided to stay in dairying, because of Ben and Belinda and their passion. They want the best for themselves, and they want the best for their staff.”
Ian’s career transition saw him learning how to operate a 40 bale rotary shed, having had previous experience with a 14 a side and a 10 a side herringbones.
He had spent the past eight or nine years sitting behind a desk as intelligence analyst for the prison service. “I’m pretty good at spreadsheets and word documents,” he says.
“I knew coming to a farm was going to be hard work, but I’m not afraid of hard work. You just have to crack on and get the job done. I wouldn’t leave a job half finished.”
The 4am alarm calls were easier to take, as Ian is used to doing shift work. Now two seasons in to his dairying career, Ian says he has no aspirations of being a sharemilker or a contract milker.
With Ben and Belinda’s support and encouragement, Ian is now finishing his Level 3 Primary ITO, and has completed a lameness course through the local vet clinic, an approved handlers course, and a spring first aid course. “Ben and Belinda have really pushed for these sorts of courses.”
Ian’s parents were supportive of his career change and his mum told him his great uncle had owned a dairy farm they used to visit when Ian was only two or three years old. Ian had forgotten about it but his great uncle had said at the time Ian would be a farmer.
“You either have an affinity with animals or you don’t,” says Ian, who also spent some of his time in the prison service as a dog handler.
“With the cows, it’s slowly slowly catchy monkey. You’ve got to be gentle, and you’ve also got to be firm.”
Belinda adds Ian loves to sing to the cows in the shed, where he can often be found belting out a bit of Tom Jones and Elvis Presley.
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