Light­bulb mo­ments re­ward lay tu­tor

Farmer shares his know-how with next gen­er­a­tion

Hawke's Bay Today - - The Country -

EV­ERY SO OF­TEN, Wil­lie McKnight gets off the trac­tor, throws his gum­boots in the ute, and heads off to share his stock­man­ship skills with young farm­ers.

In 2010, McKnight was a NZ Dairy In­dus­try Awards farm man­ager of the year. He and his wife Jo have since made some life­style changes and given up sharemilk­ing. They now man­age a 200ha dairy graz­ing block as well as rais­ing nurs­ing cows and rear­ing calves. In his spare time McKnight works as a con­trac­tor, re­grass­ing, direct drilling and cul­ti­vat­ing.

De­spite this hec­tic sched­ule, McKnight still has time to pass on his farm­ing skills to oth­ers rel­a­tively new to farm­ing. He de­liv­ers stock­man­ship work­shops for Dairy Train­ing Ltd, the DairyNZ firm that pro­vides vo­ca­tional train­ing for staff on dairy farms.

These ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes were de­vel­oped by the Trans­form­ing the Dairy Value Chain ( TDVC) Pri­mary Growth Part­ner­ship pro­gramme, a sev­enyear, $170 mil­lion in­no­va­tion in­vest­ment led by com­mer­cial part­ners, in­clud­ing DairyNZ and Fonterra, and part­nered by the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries.

The TDVC in­vest­ment is di­rected at in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions that grow the New Zealand econ­omy. The cow skills pro­gramme uses a new prac­ti­cal skills train­ing ap­proach that will ex­tend beyond cow skills to many other train­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. To suc­ceed it will need to cost ef­fec­tively meet the needs of trainees and man­agers.

Train­ing mod­ules in­clude work­shops on mov­ing cat­tle, train­ing heifers, best prac­tice in the dairy shed and car­ing for calves.

“I en­joy the hands-on na­ture of this teach­ing,” says McKnight. “It’s great to see those light­bulb mo­ments, when trainees get it. I think the prac­ti­cal as­pects of this train­ing ap­peal to farm as­sis­tants be­cause it fo­cuses on giv­ing them skills that they can use im­me­di­ately. Good stock­man­ship not only im­proves an­i­mal wel­fare, it helps en­sure a safe and ef­fi­cient work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for the whole farm team, and up­skilling farm staff is in­te­gral to this.”

Dairy Train­ing’s oper­a­tions

It’s great to see those light­bulb mo­ments, when trainees get it.

man­ager Cath Blake said vo­ca­tional train­ing has ben­e­fits for em­ploy­ers as well as staff.

“Vo­ca­tional train­ing has a pos­i­tive im­pact on mo­ti­va­tion, at­ti­tude and self-es­teem of em­ploy­ees. This in turn boosts on-the-job pro­duc­tiv­ity. These work­shops give young farm­ers the op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire new skills and ex­tend their op­tions for ca­reer de­vel­op­ment.”

Toni Sch­nuriger, as­sis­tant man­ager for a Wairarapa Moana farm in Man­gakino, said even though she grew up on a dairy farm, and many things were sec­ond na­ture, it was good to re­fresh her skills.

“The cow skills work­shops are hands on, and each ses­sion comes with short breaks which helps to keep you fo­cused,” says Toni Sch­nuriger. “I now have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the rea­sons be­hind why we should do things in a cer­tain way, and I share this in­for­ma­tion with the team when we do our staff train­ing.”

The Pri­mary ITO will now in­clude the frame­work of the cow skills pro­gramme as part of the New Zealand Cer­tifi­cate of Pri­mary In­dus­try Skills.

Wil­lie McKnight, with wife Jo and chil­dren Lach­lan, Freya, and El­liott, de­liv­ers stock­man­ship work­shops for Dairy Train­ing.

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