De­mand for agri-con­sul­tants on the rise

Matamata Chronicle - - & About - RU­RAL DE­LIV­ERY

As farm­ers are in­creas­ingly re­quired to walk a tightrope be­tween en­vi­ron­men­tal com­pli­ance and farm prof­itabil­ity, the de­mands on agri­cul­tural con­sul­tants are grow­ing.

Stacey Bel­ton, an agri­cul­tural con­sul­tant with Ag-First, is one such con­sul­tant.

The Mata­mata ‘‘farm girl’’ is nearly three years into her role since grad­u­at­ing from Lin­coln Univer­sity with a bach­e­lor of agri­cul­tural science.

She says the de­mands on con­sul­tants in the Waikato re­gion are grow­ing as farm­ers are start­ing to digest the full im­pli­ca­tions of the Healthy Rivers Plan.

‘‘There are about 500 farms in the catch­ment, each re­quir­ing a farm en­vi­ron­ment plan and that brings a lot of de­mands on con­sul­tants to work with them,‘‘ she says.

The DairyNZ scholar has al­ready been work­ing with farm­ers adopt­ing DairyNZ’s sus­tain­able milk plan, and while not as com­pre­hen­sive as what the farm en­vi­ron­ment plans will be, they are pro­vid­ing a good start­ing point for many clients.

She says more and more farm­ers are tak­ing a wider view of their busi­ness with a con­sul­tant.

‘‘The re­turn for good con­sul­tancy has been proven to be high - about $10 for ev­ery $1 spent - of­ten achieved with some very sim­ple changes.’’

Be­ing an agri­cul­tural con­sult- ant fits well for Bel­ton.

Af­ter leav­ing St Peter’s School in Cam­bridge, she planned to study at Lin­coln and be­come a re­search as­sis­tant, but she found she en­joyed be­ing on-farm.

‘‘I took some farm man­age­ment pa­pers and re­ally en­joyed the prac­ti­cal, ap­plied na­ture of the work. It was from there I de­cided I wanted to be a con­sul­tant.’’

Re­ceiv­ing the DairyNZ schol­ar­ship in 2010 helped Bel­ton take her goal of be­ing a farm con­sul­tant a step fur­ther.

‘‘When I told Bill Bar­wood, who was the DairyNZ schol­ar­ship fa­cil­i­ta­tor at the time, that I was keen to be a dairy con­sul­tant, he put me in touch with James Allen of AgFirst. James ar­ranged for me to go on a few visits with con­sul­tants to see clients and that was ba­si­cally how I got my job here.’’

DairyNZ foun­da­tion cour­ses have helped Bel­ton de­velop her ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of farm sys­tems.

She is now fo­cused on com­plet­ing a Sus­tain­able Nu­tri­ent Man­age­ment course, a base com­pe­tency re­quire­ment for con­sul­tants ad­vis­ing farm­ers op­er­at­ing un­der the Healthy Rivers Plan.

De­vel­op­ment around nu­tri­ent man­age­ment will be a ‘‘must have’’ for con­sul­tants like Bel­ton in the Waikato Catch­ment, but she’s also keen to build her ‘‘cows and grass’’ skills.

AGFIRST

Stacey Bel­ton, AgFirst.

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