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Young Dairy Farmer Learns Many Roles
March 21, 2016

Learning the whole gamut of roles performed on a dairy farm has been an exciting challenge for young Marlborough dairy farmer Sarah Parkes.

The 19-year-old came from a farming background but freely admitted she knew nothing about dairy farms before she took on a trainee role on a 340 hectare Wairau Valley dairy farm 18 months ago.

She has been chosen as one of  five finalists for the Dairy Industry Awards’ Dairy Trainee of the Year to be held in Greymouth on April 7.

Parkes said long term ambitions became clearer after returning home from working for several months as a showjumping groom in North Carolina.

“The family farm converted from dairying to beef when I was six and I spent most of my time on the farm fluffing around with Dad,” she said.

“When I came back from overseas I got an interview with a friend of my fathers, Evan White, who owned a dairy farm in the Wairau Valley.

“Evan suggested I come up and work for a few days and see if I would like it.

“I feel in the love with the job almost at once and got hired.”

Now in her second season milking 800 friesian, jersey and crossbred cows, Parkes is enthusiastic about learning all the roles on the farm.

The farm milks three times in two days and Parkes will often work up to 10-12 hours a day.

“I really like the wide variety of work that I do, apart from milking the cows,” she said.

“I’m getting to know about machinery, effluent and pasture management, stock work, animal health, and AI [artificial insemination], which is the best part.”

Parkes said it was daunting starting to work in a industry which had highs and lows.

“It looks scary in the short term but hopefully it will pick up,” she said

“I enjoy the work and I am determined to move up the ladder as a career.”

Parkes progressed through to the award finals following two regional judging rounds.

“The first round I didn’t really know what to expect and the questions from the judges seemed to be coming at me from all directions.”

“It was a good experience as the questions made you focus on career development and industry awareness.

“I tried to give a good impression, something must have worked.”

In the second round at Reefton, entrants were put through their paces with practical farm tasks.

“It was the things we do everyday on the farm so I was more at ease,” she said.

The pressure is now on to be selected as the third successive regional finalist winner from Marlborough.

The previous two regional dairy trainee of the year winners, Amy White and Danny Mitchell, have both come from the region.

Parkes’ boss, Evan White, said the awards were important for young people wanting to enter the industry.

“With bigger farms and multi-ownership becoming more the norm we need to encourage young people to seek out work on dairy farms where they can gain a wide range of experience, not just be focused on one role, such as milking cows,” White said.

“Sarah has really gained in confidence since she joined us, she has a ‘can-do’ attitude, and is very keen to learn all the different aspects of farming, and gain a broad range of skills.

“It just a matter of being able to put the time into teaching young people like Sarah.

“If we don’t the industry could lose out in attracting the next generation of farmers.”

Source – The Marlborough Express



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