Demand for agri-consultants on the rise
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.
Stacey Belton, AgFirst.