When Owen Clegg left Hawera High School at age 16 to go dairy farming, he promised his Mum he would continue to study.
His subsequent apprenticeship and industry training over the past decade through Primary ITO has certainly set him on the path to success and future farm ownership.
Owen and his partner, Hollie Wham, won the 2018 Taranaki Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year title in March and the 26 year-old also scooped a Modern Apprentice award back in 2011.
“I studied all the papers that I could that were relevant to my career,” Owen explains. “From this I have gained knowledge as well as practical skills. It also has given me more job opportunities and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
Owen says he was a “townie born and bred” but was drawn to farming because he loved working with animals and being outdoors. “There are always different challenges on a farm so the dairy industry really appealed to me.”
He embarked on a formal apprenticeship at age 17 and took two years to complete the programme which combined on-the-job learning with weekly classroom lessons.
He learned to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) and looked for good employers who would help him develop his knowledge and skills.
“With all my employers we have run the farms in a team approach, working together trying to operate the farm as successfully and efficiently as we can. This has resulted in strong relationships being built, and advice when needed, regardless of where I am in my career.”
Owen and Hollie are currently 50/50 share milking 180 cows in Manutahi in addition to a lower order share milking job in Hurleyville.
Owen says a big challenge at the outset of his career was getting his head around the financial discipline required. “You get paid and you want to have fun and spend it but you have to think about your end goal and where you want to be in future. Hollie and I are in a position now where in the next year or two we can hopefully get into an equity partnership and start buying our way into farm ownership.”
In the Taranaki region, Primary ITO is currently supporting 90 people to complete apprenticeships in the agriculture and horticulture industries.
Looking back, Owen says an apprenticeship was the perfect introduction to dairy farming and has opened up many opportunities. His advice for others? “Get into it, especially if you’re driven. It will guide you where you want to go and keep you focused. Everyone has a chance to be successful in their own career and life, with hard work and determination it is achievable.”
Owen thinks industry training also has a valuable role to play in growing Taranaki’s future economy.
“I think farming has changed a lot in the last few years – how we manage our farms in relation to climate change, and how we manage our feed. Going back to basics is not a bad thing. My apprenticeship is where I learnt those basics so training is an important part of moving our industry forward so we continue to grow and remain productive.”
Register to become a dairy apprentice
Federated Farmers and Primary ITO have teamed up on an exciting new apprenticeship to rapidly grow people capability in the dairy industry.
You can register your interest online now at farmapprentice.co.nz