Trade background proves an asset on farm
Pearls of wisdom offered by Martin Bates’ grandfather and father to get a trade before embarking on a farming career have proven well founded.A fifth generation dairy farmer, Martin completed a building apprenticeship in Christchurch when he left school, spending six years in the trade.
When the earthquakes struck Martin was already looking for his next challenge and spent a year in Canada working on a cropping farm in Saskatchewan, five hours east of Calgary.Working as part of a team planting 18,000 acres of mixed crop, Martin was the go-for man of many talents helping out where needed.
Always more practical than theoretical, if anything needed to be worked on or driven Martin got the machinery going. Returning home, Martin spent a year working on an 800-cow farm in Darfield, before taking up the challenge of converting his parent’s nearby 100-hectare grazing block to dairy.
“Most of the farm’s layout was set up but needed fine-tuning,” says Martin. “My job was project managing the build of a 40-aside herringbone shed and a couple of staff houses.”Martin and partner, Vanessa Robinson, are now into their third season as contract milkers on the farm.
Vanessa, who has an agricultural degree, helps out on the farm when she can but also maintains a full time position with Dairy NZ as part of a development team.The 115 hectare farm is dead fl at apart from a fault line that touches the property at six points and is home to 400 jersey and jersey-cross cows.“Jerseys are an historical family breed for us.
The genetics of some of the cows can be traced back 60 years to my grandfather’s days. Dad has the philosophy that they’re a V6 versus a V8 – they still produce but they’re not gas-guzzlers. Last season our production was 425kgMS a cow.”
Reflecting on the advice offered by grandfather and father about getting a trade Martin says he can fix pretty much anything on the farm.“Any challenges of on-farm-breakdowns are an easy fix for me, so it was good advice.
For me the pleasure of farming is working outdoors and the challenges that go with that, working with the animals, the environment and being a caretaker of the land. Looking forward to the next generation I would say getting a degree will be important as they will need to be very savvy in understanding all the laws and regulations required to be a good farmer.”
Employing two staff, Martin says while his strengths lie in the practical side of farming, he likes to surround himself with others with different strengths as they provide a good sounding board to bounce ideas around.
Looking to the future, Martin and Vanessa have the objective of building up their own herd over the next three seasons to become 50/50 sharemilkers on the farm.
“We’re already on the way to do that, buying 80 heifers this year and we will buy more heifers each year till we have enough. Following that we want to take over managing my parents 800 cow farm once we are a bit more established, eventually share-milking both. Farm ownership is the ultimate goal.”
A past active member of Young Farmers, Martin is now aged out but continues involvement as part of the organising committee for the 2020 Grand Final Competition and heavily involved in organising the 2021 South island Field Days in Kirwee.
“I love being involved in those organising committees because there’re great challenges, you get to network with new people and keep your finger on the pulse with what is happening in the agricultural industry.”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Ellesmere Transport Co
- Sheat Contracting Ltd