Farming backed as a career
Waikato sheep and beef farmers are questioning whether more can be done to lure school leavers into careers in agriculture.
Any attempts to do this had to start in high schools, by getting career advisers to encourage school leavers to consider a career in agriculture, farmers said at a recent Beef+Lamb New Zealand meeting.
One farmer questioned why more training farms such as the facility at Smedley Station in the Hawke’s Bay could not be established.
Beef+Lamb NZ Northern North Island director James Parsons told him there was a lot of interest in establishing such farms.
One that was under discussion was in Northland.
‘‘The Whangarei A&P Association have about $5 million in equity and they are keen to buy a farm or lease a farm.’’
Beef+Lamb NZ midnorthern North Island farmer council chairman Rick Burke said a Papamoa farmer had also recently gifted his drystock farm to the nation to be used as a training facility.
One of the industry’s biggest challenges for school leavers was the lack of jobs in the sheep and beef sector.
‘‘With dairy there are thousands of jobs out there. But with sheep and beef it doesn’t matter how many keen young guys you have got there, it’s very hard to find a farm for them,’’ he said.
Parsons was more optimistic.
‘‘I really believe we are starting to turn the tide a wee bit.’’
This was because of the work of New Zealand Young Farmers, he said.
‘‘They are doing a fantastic job, they . . . have agri-kids clubs and agriteen clubs.’’
Beef+Lamb NZ along with Young Farmers also ran agricultural experience days at schools. These days had been successful.
Previously, school career advisers would send along the more academically challenged children to these days.
‘‘Now they are starting to send along some of the smarter kids.’’
The meeting was one of several in the region during the past week as Parsons updated farmers on the organisation’s activities of the past year.
About 20 farmers attended the meeting at Peter Thompson’s woolshed north of Maramarua.
Parsons said it was about to sign its contract with the Government on the $64m Red Meat Profit Partnership.
The partnership has just appointed an independent chairman and would soon appoint a general manager.
The seven-year programme had Beef+Lamb NZ team up with Alliance Group, ANZCO, Silver Fern Farms, Blue Sky Meats, Progressive Meats and Greenlea Meats.
This group was contributing a combined $32m, with the Government providing the balance.
Ad Feedback The partnership grew out of the findings in the 2011 Red Meat Sector Strategy, which found there was a $3.4 billion opportunity in the $8b red meat sector to take it up to $12b in export revenue.
Half of these gains sit behind the farmgate and would help push farmers into the top 10 per cent earning per hectare in the industry.
This meant farmers examining all aspects of their business including financial, production, people, and environmental compliance.
Traditionally farmers had done well at improving production, but had neglected some of these other areas, he said.
The partnership included understanding behaviour change with farmers, sector capability, and the use of benchmarking.
The industry’s top performers were disciplined enough to implement innovation and knowledge within the industry.
‘‘The people at the top are either very self-disciplined people, or they have good structures around accountability.’’
Condition scoring ewes was an example of this, he said.
‘‘If you condition score your sheep and manage them appropriately there is an extra $100 a hectare in profit just to the bottom line just by lifting your sheep performance and yet very few people do it. The top guys do.’’
The organisation had predicted a $98 lamb price at the farmgate for this season, calculated at a 77 cent exchange rate.
Parsons said there would be a rebound from last year’s price of $85 at a US83c exchange rate.
About $6.88 of the lift was a result of the exchange rate and $6.63 came from market forces, he said.
The all-grades beef prices had been forecast at $1022.
About $57 of that price shift was because of the exchange rate and $5.67 was down to market forces.
Britain was still the biggest destination for New Zealand beef and lamb, but China had moved up significantly in the past few years, from 10th in 2005-2006 to second in 2012-2013, he said.
Last year, about $504m in export lamb receipts went to Britain, with China coming in at $342m.
Though it had become a larger market, it still took predominantly lower-value cuts and mutton. China did not even feature as a top-15 customer of New Zealand beef in 2005-2006.
Now it was fourth in total beef export receipts.
The shift to China had happened so quickly that exporters and the Ministry for Primary Industries were still grappling with coming up to speed with doing business in China, Parsons said.