Career pathways focus for manager

Career pathways focus for manager
NZ Dairy Manager of the Year runner-up James Matheson displays his Leadership Award.

This year’s Otago/Southland Dairy Farm Manager of the Year and runner-up at the national finals, James Matheson, is passionate about enabling those entering the industry to find a rewarding and fulfilling career pathway.
James has been on the 330 ha (310 ha effective) farm owned by Chris Lawlor for eight seasons now and says the role, responsibilities and day to day life of managing the farm and working with the team he employs is what makes his working life so worthwhile.
The 26 year old has progressed his farming career in leaps and bounds by setting attainable goals in realising equity.
“I set myself the goal to have accrued $1million in equity by the time I am 30 and so far I’m on track to achieve that. I’ve done it through stock trading and building up my own part of the herd which I sold back to the farm owner and so far it’s made it possible for me to acquire my own block of land,” James explains.
He began on the farm as a trainee and soon realised that eventual farm management was something he aspired to.
This was achieved after just two years on the same property.
“I soon decided that the best way to secure my financial future was to purchase land.”
So when a 35ha block next door became avail-able that’s just what James did.James’ responsibilities extend to a further 200ha run-off, used for wintering the herd and rearing the young stock, also owned by Chris Lawlor.
The farm carries a herd of 700 mainly friesian cows and the milk production target has been set at 345,000 kgMS.
James describes Chris as his mentor and though currently living in Melbourne the two keep in close contact.
They also have another thing in common and that is to establish a career progression system, similar to the one James has chosen, that could be applied to others entering the industry.
“It’s a real passion we both have. Chris is currently completing an MBA at Melbourne University and is in part basing his research on developing and documenting the farm career pathway based on how I have achieved equity to date. We want to create a system which is replicable.”
The system is based on accruing enough over-time hours to create a resource to buy back calves.
“To concentrate in the first five or six years to creating that pull of money and learning good farming skills. Then to put your energies into something you are passionate about.”
James entered the Dairy Industry Awards last year and said that experience set him up with more confidence the second time round.
“You are assessed on all aspects of running a farm and my presentation was better this year and that made a difference. You have to prove and show evidence and this year I achieved two merit awards.”
Those awards were The Primary ITO Power Play Award and McIntrye Dick and Partners Feed Management Award.
The two-tier process involved firstly presenting to three judges in the preliminary round and then to judges from Canterbury when selected in the top five to go through
As a consequence of winning the Dairy Farm Manager title James will be involved in running the event next year.
“It’s well worthwhile and a way to give back to the industry.”
James admits he’s really big on goals and since purchasing his own block has deliberately focussed his attention, not so much on that piece of land, but rather on professional and career development for his staff.
Working with James is his tractor driving father, Peter, Nathan Bee 2IC, milk harvester Sheryl Culbertson and trainees Reuben Earl and Sam Bee.
The keen rugby player says his ideal situation will be to go lower order or equity farming.
“You keep hearing there are pathways into farm ownership but I think they are few and far between.
The opportunity is usually through a family history of farming.
“ I don’t think the pathway is there for people coming straight from school or at least there is no clear pathway for them to follow.”
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