On-farm learning for next generation of dairy farmers

8 May 2023

Bringing the next generation of dairy farmers through by offering them on-the-job learning is important for the future of the industry, says Tasman district dairy farmer Kevin Freeman.

Kevin and his wife Kyla milk 390 cows at Atapo farm and have a farm assistant, Gemma Balmer, undertaking the Level 3 and 4 New Zealand Apprenticeship in Agriculture Dairy Farming with Primary ITO | Te Pūkenga.

Senior Farm Assistant Jack Hicks and Gemma Balmer are both currently completing the Level 3 qualification, and Jack plans to start the Level 4 in future. Continuous learning enables team members to develop and provides added support to the business, says Kevin.

“We are investing in people so there is a future not only for our business but in the industry. These are our future farm leaders and owners, so we want them to be going forward and progressing.”

A former Primary ITO learner himself, Kevin says learning and growing with Primary ITO helps his team to understand the background to the tasks they are doing and gives them the skills they need for the future.

He says through their learning his team are able to help solve problems on farm and offer ideas toward business decisions, and as their skills continue to grow, managers have certainty that delegated tasks will be completed well, says Kevin.

Jack has progressed from dairy assistant to second in charge, which involves managing the pasture plan and guiding other staff when Kevin is away. His new skills in calculating feed and baleage mean he’s able to take responsibility for adjusting the livestock feed plan.

Training Adviser key to success

Kevin says the learners are well supported by their Primary ITO Training Adviser Kirstie Dodds, class tutors and the online platform, Mahi Tahi, which is easy for both learners and employers to use.

A former teacher and artificial insemination technician, Kirstie supports Jack and Gemma in their learning. “My favourite part of this job is working with the learners and employers. It is really rewarding to see their progress, the knowledge they are gaining and the impact they are having on the farming business.”

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.

Learners attend classes once every month to six weeks and attend study days and nights. A learning support team and mentors are available to learners who require additional support.

Kevin says training advisers are focussed on their learners achieving their goals. “Kirstie is a good communicator and uses channels, like texting for example, that young learners will respond to. She is very engaging and relatable, and this is motivating for them,” he says.

The training also creates a good team culture where everyone supports each other. “The trainees feel valued, and because we are able to give them more responsibility, they have a stronger commitment to the business.”

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