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Schools need to do more promoting agriculture as a career

Schools need to do more promoting agriculture as a career
Lola Knight feeding a newly born calf and putting the cups on in the dairy shed

Tired of the bad press that farming has received, and the difficulty in attracting good staff, Waikato dairy farmer, Michael Bennett believes schools need to do so much more to promote agriculture as a positive career to New Zealand’s youngest and brightest.

Michael and his wife Lindy are passionate about their dairy farming life – it’s about the freedom to work outdoors and caring for the animals that deliver the farms production.

But farming has also provided a positive pathway to progress from nothing to farm ownership. “I think that the challenge for the industry is getting good staff,” says Michael.

“In schools it seems frowned upon to be working in agriculture and it’s actually a bloody good industry to be in because you can get somewhere. You know if you put your head down, bum up and focus, you can get somewhere – and good people do get to go places.”

Michael and Lindy are both good role models of young people who entered agricultural careers, applied themselves and achieved goals.

Lindy grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Hunterville and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science from Lincoln University, before becoming an agronomist.

Michael’s exposure to farming was growing up on a lifestyle block in Te Awamutu.

Making a decision to pursue a career in dairy farming upon leaving school, Michael steadily developed his career from farm assistant to herd manager to sharemilker, before he and Lindy entered into an equity partnership.

The couple had been sharemilking on the Te Awamutu farm for three seasons when the opportunity arose to enter into a three-way equity partnership at the start of the 2015/16 season.

“So, Lindy and I are 30% owners of the partnership, the people who we are sharemilking for are 30% owners. Their daughter and son-in-law are 40% of the partnership. We were also engaged as contract milkers.”

In June 2017, the partnership bought another dairy farm 13 kilometres down the road bringing the total herd up to close to 1000 cows.

“Last season Lindy and I contract milked for both farms but it was very hard on us and Lindy was pregnant at that stage. So we moved to the new farm last year and employed a contract milker for the original farm.”

Michael and Lindy milk 550 jersey cows off the partnership’s new 160ha effective farm. The soil is a mix of silt, sand and clay making it very wet in the winter and spring months.

Last year the farm achieved production of 180,000kgMS but as the couple get to know the farm they will be targeting 190,000kgMS.

The original farm sits at 125ha effective with 470 cows, 75% of which are jersey with the balance friesian. This season 170,000kgMS is being targeted. Sustainable farming is a big focus for Michael and Lindy.

“We do a lot of financial monitoring and we use the Zero financial accounting package. Dairy farming does provide a good career pathway – but you need to keep a focus on your goals.”

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