Farm­ing backed as a ca­reer

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

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.

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