Training supports success for country’s largest pork producer

9 August 2023

Providing staff both training and opportunities to learn are important to the success of Canterbury pork operation Patoa Farms.

As New Zealand’s largest pig farm, Patoa Farms employs 55 staff in a range of roles across its breeding and finishing areas.

The company has prioritised training programmes through Primary ITO | Te Pūkenga for many years, with the learning integrated into Patoa Farm’s staff performance plan.

General Manager Tjaart Grové says it has supported several staff members to gain qualifications and progress in their roles.

“We find it gives them an opportunity to work in both areas of our operation which broadens their skills and gives them a deeper understanding about the wider farm system. It also means they don’t become limited to knowing only one area of the farm.”

Intermediate level stock person TJ Beer has completed Level 3 of the New Zealand Certificate in Pork Production and is interested in further learning with Level 4. The New Zealand Certificate in Pork Production Level 4 is currently in development and will be open for enrolment in the coming months.

Although TJ had some experience with animals on her father’s lifestyle blocks prior to coming to Patoa farms in 2021, the agriculture production industry was new.

Tjaart says the Primary ITO learning has fast-tracked TJ’s progress. “It was a real change for her moving to agriculture and with the training behind her now she has some senior stock person skills and has become a very valuable member of the team.”

TJ says doing the programme has influenced her decision to continue with a career in the pork industry. “Learning toward the qualification has been really good, it is helpful and informative. I now want to progress in this career and be team leader at some point.”

TJ works in the breeding area raising piglets and caring for breeding sows, and has enjoyed learning more about the weaning process and other areas of the farm operation through the study.

Tjaart says The Primary ITO programme supports Patoa’s own entry level animal management training, focussed on animal welfare and safety, for new team members. “It helps with fine tuning of all the skills required to be a good stock person, understanding the animal and a broad range of knowledge about the animals and anatomy.”

“These skills are helpful to our operation because our roles include animal husbandry, health management and breeding care.”

Primary ITO Training Adviser April Mainland supports learners at Patoa Farms. “The company is brilliant at giving staff the opportunity and supporting them right through their training. It works well because we have a good relationship between Training Adviser and the employer, and they also offer tutoring opportunities to their team.”

Tjaart says he recommends the Primary ITO programme to others considering giving their staff the opportunity. “For us we have something that is well structured to suit our needs and it definitely provides a benefit for our company and our team.”

Being able to offer training is also helpful for attracting new staff, particularly with the current skills shortage in the agriculture industry, he says. “This is a great industry to work in. We have a good culture and working conditions including early starts and early finishes in the summer months.”

And both Tjaart and TJ confirm pigs’ reputation for being very intelligent and delightful animals to work with. “They are quite enjoyable creatures, they are very smart and all have their own personalities,” says TJ.

In other great news out of Patoa Farms, team member Tayla Steele recently took out the Stockperson of the Year Award, coming first equal and being presented the award by Pork Sector Manager Mel Sheppard at the recent NZ Pork Annual Conference. Tayla recently completed the New Zealand Certificate in Pork Production (Level 3) with support from Patoa Farms and Training Adviser April Mainland. Clearly great things are happening over at Patoa Farms.

To learn more about our pork production programmes, click here.

Contact your local pork Training Adviser on 0800 20 80 20, email [email protected] or click here.