Courses broaden farming knowledge
Having left school 42 years ago without qualifications, if Axel Nielsen-Vold could look back on his 15-year-old self he would encourage him to stay at school and absorb the learning.
Back in those days staying in the classroom was the last thing young Axel wanted to do. Bright and very good at maths, literacy wasn’t his thing and every opportunity he had he’d be helping his dad fencing or working on the farm.
Realising later in life the importance of education, Axel completed his Diploma in Agriculture though ITO and now encourages his ten direct reports at Pamu’s Achilles Dairy Unit to do the same.
With literacy not his thing and tending to be a little blunt in communication style, completing the courses and diploma were tough going for Axel but achievement has broadened his agricultural knowledge and people skills.
“I had to learn how to talk to people differently, learn their different styles and communicate in the way they communicate to get the best results. Cows have to be fed and cows have to be milked and we are very reliant on people to do those things well. The people side can be the most challenging part of the job and yet the most rewarding.”
Axel knows how to recognise staff with talent and likes to see people learning, developing and moving on within Pamu or into other farms in the industry.
“If Pamu cannot accommodate talented people ready to progress I’d rather see them look outside for promotions than sit dormant. I always advise people to take ITO courses because they need those qualifications to get higher in the industry.”
Following a long career in the agricultura sector that has included mustering in the greater Wanganui area and dairy farming down south, Axel accepted a farm manager’s role with Pamu eight years ago and has been on the same farm ever since.Part of Pastoral Complex in the North Island’s Central Plateau that includes 19 dairy farms plus support blocks, a sheep milking farm, and drystock blocks, Achilles is just 15 minutes out of Taupo.
The 840-hectare property is home to 1900 cows but Axel says that number will gradually be reduced to 1800 to improve the environmental footprint and reduce the use of fertiliser.Typical for the area, the land is pumice and quite raw.“It’s hard to grow grass and gets gappy with weeds in amongst the gaps.
We need rain – if we don’t get some kind of rain every 2 – 3 weeks we dry out very quickly. Slowly the organic matter is building up, improving the soil composition and pasture growth. In time we will become a top performing dairy farm.”
Axel tries to grow as much feed as possible on-farm and as stock numbers reduce more grass silage can be cut.“In a good year we grow about 11 tonne of grass but last season we had the driest summer we’ve had in the eight years I’ve been here and we only grew about nine tonne.”
In accord with Pamu’s objectives of diversification and creating value add products, two years ago two month’s worth of Achilles’ grass fed milk was sent to a factory for drying and bagged.
“It’s taken a while, but that powder is now being put into Pamu branded cans, and is on shelves in Chinese stores. Depending on how it sells, we’re hoping to do more of that, and if that happens we will increase our production.”
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