Upon coming home from my 5 month placement, I am still finding it very hard to come to terms with the sheer scale and efficiency that New Zealand farmers operate at on a nationwide basis. With the average herd in Canterbury being 600 cows and sheep farms with over 20,000 ewes, it would really make you wonder how do we find ourselves so busy all the time be it with 20 suckler cows or 70 ewes.
I spent my 5 months on Glenire farm, a 1200 cow dairy farm in the heart of the McKenzie mountain rangeowned by Ryan and Tina O’Sullivan. The farm consists of a 700 acre grazing block irrigated by 4 large pivots, two out-farms of 250 acre each and a tillage enterprise of 250 acres, which supplies all the feed and grass seed for the farm. As well as this, most of the machinery work is on done by Ryan and his father Dermot which is unusual for a farm of this size in New Zealand. When I arrived in mid-January, the region was just recovering from a severe drought which brought on unbelievable grass growth once the rain arrived. Grassland management is the key to every farms potential out there and I learned so much about how to deal with a lack of, and too much grass which has been of great benefit to me upon returning home. I spent time milking, driving machinery at silage, cultivations, digger work, fencing, dosing, you name it. I also spent a lot of time spreading fertiliser and lime using the farms purpose built fert truck fully kitted with GPS which was great experience.
As well as the machinery side, I learned all the management of large quantities of livestock, managing fodder crops and managing the simple things like setting up fences for the next day’s grazing and moving dry cattle etc. I witnessed many strange phenomenons on my time on the farm, such as spraying and fertilising crops with helicopters, strip-grazing 8ft tall maize crops withheifers and the use of a flamethrower to burn stubble fields, none of which I can see happening in south Sligo for quite some time.
To those of you who have any ideas of going to New Zealand or abroad for placement, my recommendation is go. Money cannot buy the experience you will gain be it on farm, in a new community or meeting new people. My travels have opened my eyes to a whole new world and I cannot see me kicking off the travel bug for some time.
I would like to thank the ASA and the Irish farmers journal for the very kind travel bursary and I hope between this, my Snapchat takeover and my blog that I gave you a general snapshot of life on the far side of the world.