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Top trainee has his hands full

Top trainee has his hands full
Clay and Joy Paton with children Isla (3½) and Roman (9 months). Clay is farm manager for Brent and Michelle Riley, milking 500 cows on 164ha near Collingwood.

Clay and Joy Paton are settling in well since moving on to a 164-hectare (effective) farm owned by Brent and Michelle Riley, just south of Collingwood, on June 1 this year.

For Clay, who is passionate about moving towards farm ownership in time, the farm is offering plenty of opportunities to fine-tune his farming skills.

“It is a great farm to work on with very heavy soils that hold moisture well. We’re milking a herd of just under 500 predominantly kiwicross cows.

The farm is achieving high returns with a stocking rate of three per hectare, but it needs a lot of input fertiliser-wise,” says Clay.

Asked about his first experience of calving on the farm, Clay is philosophical – a combination of the newness of the farm and very wet conditions caused challenges.

Three full-time staff plus a calf-rearer assisted during calving, and for Clay, taking responsibility for his workers has been a learning curve.

As manager, he is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the farm, based on the plans put in place by Brent and Michelle and the farm consultant.

“We worked on a large scale dairy support unit and we had Isla, who is now three and a half, during that time.”

The couple’s plan was to work around New Zealand and the world, but when the family started they decided it was time to step into farming here as soon as possible.

The family has grown further with son Roman, now nine months old. So, what does Clay enjoy most Clay about farming? The current, national winner of the Dairy Industry Trainee of the Year simply says it’s a combination of seeing the grass you work hard to grow converted into milk, and having happy full cows.

“I take real pride in my work and I think the judges could see I am intent on doing well and giving back to this industry, which is taking care of us so well.”

Part of the judging process required the 24-yearold to produce a video, presenting himself, his philosophy, and his visions for his farming journey.

He was delighted when he took out line-honours for the near-four-minute video, which can be viewed on Youtube.

“As part of my entry in the National Dairy Industry Awards, I had to create a video displaying my life, why I enjoy farming and what it means to Top trainee has his hands full Sue Russellme.

I wanted it to be real, relatable and for people to be able to see what opportunities there are available.

“Through my video I had hoped to help in promoting the dairy industry in the positive light that it deserves. We also hope that it can inspire other young people to get on board with farming and rekindle the passion in all current farmers,” says Clay.

He found the whole experience of entering the awards really enjoyable and encourages others to take up the challenge, because of the opportunities to learn and to network that the awards offer.

By mid-November, grass production was starting to kick in – Clay has 15 hectares set aside for silage.

The herd receives additional nutrition through in-shed feeding of a three-kilograms-percow 3 mix of palm kernel extract (PKE) and barley, which is reduced when the pasture comes through Milk is produced through a 16-year-old Reid shed with a 50-bail rotary plant. Clay sees a lot of room for improvement on the farm.

“It is 16 years old and has been underperforming, mostly because of grass management. So, we are focusing on pasture use and keeping quality as there are a lot of older pastures and rougher areas of land” When not busy on the farm, Clay is part of a local Young Farmers group and is studying level 5 ITO.

He is also keeping busy by staying involved in the Dairy Industry Awards programme – he is facilitating next ye ar’s regional event.