Learning together supports dairy business

16 May 2023

Waimakariri contract milkers Kirstie and Wayne Pritchard wouldn’t be without the support and opportunities that Primary ITO | Te Pūkenga offers to their business.

The couple have been contract milking at Swannanoa for five years, milking up to 1050 cows on 360 hectares of irrigated land.

They have integrated Primary ITO learning programmes into their farm operation to progress their team and currently have three staff learning towards qualifications at various levels.

After learning about the dairy industry through completing Primary ITO dairy and administration programmes themselves, Kirstie and Wayne wanted to give staff the opportunity to progress the same way.

“We think it is really vital that they enrol in learning because, as much as we want to keep them, we want them to learn and develop and go further in the industry themselves,” says Kirstie. 

Over the years they have seen many of their team members progress to roles of more responsibility from starting out as relief milkers or assistants to getting fulltime work, becoming farm managers, and running their own businesses.

Kirstie says their three current learners are at different stages and have varying needs and the flexibility that Primary ITO offers supports this.

Second in charge Malcolm has completed the New Zealand Certificate in Agriculture – Dairy Farming Level 3 and is completing Level 4. Senior Farm Assistant Amber is undertaking Level 3 Livestock Feed Supply and Demand. Relief milker Willow is learning Milk Harvesting and Optimising Milk Quality.

Tailored support for learners

As well as the quality programmes available to progress those in the dairy industry, learners receive excellent support from their Training Adviser, says Kirstie.

Primary ITO training advisers are in regular contact with learners to support their progress and meet with employers and learners at least four times a year to set a training plan.

Wayne says having staff learn on the job increases their skills and allows him to delegate tasks, freeing up his time to manage the team. The support Training Adviser Sacha Storer provides to the team also eases his workload.

A former dairy farm owner, manager, and teacher, Sacha is the Training Adviser for the Waimakariri area, and loves combining her passions of dairy farming and teaching in her role.

“Seeing others expand their knowledge, grow in confidence and progress in the industry is very satisfying. Our learners are not always people who have thrived at school but here they can shine and succeed,” she says.

Learners attend classes once every month to six weeks and attend study days and nights. Learners who require additional support have access to a learning support team and mentors.

Kirstie says attending classes with others at the same stage is helpful because learners get the opportunity to build connections and learn about other farm operations. “It also motivates them to keep moving forward with their study.”

Wayne says the learning supports the whole farm operation because it motivates everyone to progress together. “When they bring their knowledge back to the farm from the classes they are asking questions about our procedures and why we do things a certain way.”

Tongue in cheek, Wayne laughs that the biggest challenge he has is finding the right answers to satisfy his keen team. “They are taking ownership of their work and it is really awesome to see them develop that way.”

Wayne also credits the high staff retention rate of his business with his team having the opportunity to learn and gain qualifications. “They are learning and moving forward together and this helps them to be focused and excited about our industry and their work.”

Click here to see the range of dairy programmes available, or use the form below to get in touch.