Industry training key to success

QUALIFICATIONS KEY: Liam and Louise Zander take questions from farmers on the farm they manage.
QUALIFICATIONS KEY: Liam and Louise Zander take questions from farmers on the farm they manage.

Liam and Louise Zander have credited progress in their industry careers to their industry training.

It has motivated them to push themselves in the industry and helped them set achievable career and personal goals.

Their endeavours were recognised when they won the Waikato Farm Manager of the Year at the Dairy Industry Awards.

It was the second time Liam had entered the awards, finding it beneficial to identify farming strengths and weaknesses.

"The like-minded, enthusiastic people I have met have been a great asset to my farming career, as I feel I get good sound advice from them on all aspects of farming, business and personal."

Employers were looking for staff with qualifications, Liam told farmers at a field day on the farm he and wife Louise manage for Kevin and Shona Richards at Morrinsville.

"They want someone with qualifications behind hem just to prove that they know what they are talking about."

A former builder, he switched to dairying after the recession resulted in layoffs within that industry.

His first boss introduced him to industry training through institutions such as AgITO and Liam saw the opportunities the industry held.

"There is a bloody bright future in dairy farming that has a lot of rewards. We took that view with both hands and never looked back."

He then worked as a 2IC on another farm while continuing with his training.

He has since completed qualifications in milk quality, production management, mating and staff management. In the future, he wants to complete a course on farm safety, hoof trimming and complete DairyNZ's Mark and Measure programme.

"Credit to AgITO. I wouldn't be able to have climbed up the dairy ladder as fast as I could without those courses.

"I highly recommend them to any dairy farmer here, young and old and you are never too old to pick and try new things."

Louise is also heavily involved in training. A former hairdresser, she is part way through completing an Agricultural Business Diploma. She has completed the business and finance modules and aims to complete the human resources section of this qualification.

"It was great, I learned so much from that I can't stress enough how good that's been," she said.

She also has qualifications in staff management and accounting, and is a contract data collector for DairyNZ's DairyBase, which is a benchmarking tool used in the industry.

It is their second year on Kevin and Shona Richards 83ha farm. The farm's hilly terrain makes it an extremely hard farm to milk cows on.

"We didn't know the farm, nor did Liam, being a first year manager. It was a big first step for him," Kevin Richards said.

The farm's highest point is 80 metres and trying to feed the herd sufficiently to maintain their body condition and put milk in the vat on the farm's hilly terrain is a massive challenge.

It also meant picking the right paddocks to graze and there are few options for which paddocks can be topped. The hills grow grass well on the tops but not so well on the slopes.

"The plate meter sometimes doesn't add up and that's our greatest challenge," Richards said.

The terrain meant they have to switch to once a day milking by Christmas to ease any loss of body condition by reducing the amount of walking the cows have to do.

This season they farm 220 crossbred cows, milking 66,000kg milk solids in a 20-aside herringbone shed, having just dried off the cows two weeks ago.

The farm was hit hard by last seasons drought, but Liam believes this season was worse.

"Drying off was an obvious decision, but as you can imagine, it was a bloody hard one to accept for Kevin."

Kevin and Liam also bring in supplements including a palm kernel blend, maize grown on the runoff, pasture silage and hay bales.

The farm is also prone to pugging and they combat that by sending 40 of their late calving cows to a nearby runoff.

Richards said he admired the Zanders for entering the competition and fronting up.

"It's not something Shona or I would ever do."

Former employer Alicia Patterson said the Zanders were a great example of a young couple building their capabilities to achieve all of their goals.

The Zanders will finish this season at the Richards' farm before moving to lower order sharemilking on a farm near Paeroa, having established their herd through stock trading. The profit achieved from this goes into buying young stock for their own.

"We're really looking forward to that. It's another step in our career."

Fairfax Media