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Dairying with dyslexia: don’t hold back

Dairying with dyslexia: don’t hold back

Over the years, Southland dairy farmer Richard Webster has learned to deal with the dyslexia that has impacted on his ability to read and write. With a reading age at primary school level, Richard says that as he has got older, dealing with it has got easier.

Like many who suffer from dyslexia, there was a sense of shame – a lack of self-esteem – and it took Richard a long time to learn not to be ashamed.

Of course, Richard is in very good company – Leonardo di Vinci, Albert Einstein and our very own John Britten, the inventor of the V1000 motorcycle – all found their own strengths and capabilities and excelled.

Richard’s strength is his ability to absorb and retain large amounts of information.

He’s also a very practical person and see’s the way things could be done when others cannot – that has got him off-side with bosses in times gone by when Richard’s vision did not match theirs.

Richard’s advice is to never let the dyslexia hold you back – seize the talents you have and believe in yourself. He also reckons finding someone to be there for you is key. In Richard’s case, it is his wife of 24 years, Caroline.

“Caroline is probably the one behind our success in many ways,’ says Richard. “She’s very good at office management, reading things for me and explaining them so we can make a decision together.”

Richard rattles off the things that Caroline does – bookwork, health and safety, rosters, payroll, rears the calves and helps in the shed when needed, and raised their five children aged between 21 – 7. “I think a lot of the time our wives are the unsung heroes.”

Working well as a team, Richard and Caroline have done well in the dairy industry awards in past years, frequently placed in the Southland regionals.

“One of the biggest things is to step back and see where you started and where you are now— even when you think that you haven’t achieved something, if you stop and look you actually have.”

Richard and Caroline are in the 5th season at Waiohipi Partnership on a hybrid contract as lower order sharemilkers/contract milkers.

Located in Woodlands, a stones throw northeast of Invercargill the 240 hectare farm is home to 690 cows, peak milking 660. Known as a very wet farm in the Spring and Autumn months, careful management is required to protect the pastures. “Our focus since being here has been on pasture and herd management,” says Richard.

“In the spring we calve on a calving pad and we have a herd home for the colostrum cows that have finished calving to keep them off the grass. When I took the farm over the best that it had done was 265,000kgMS. This year we’ve targeted 295,000kgMS but it’s looking like we will get about 300,000kgMS.”

Herd testing and a low empty rate has enabled Richard to keep the best breeding cows and improve the herd.

Passionate about dairy farming and imparting his experience and knowledge onto his staff of three, Richard says that if you are in dairying for the long haul you need an outside interest to avoid burn-out.

“We have a lifestyle block, run beef calves and a few sheep and I use it as a place to just get away.”

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