Landcorp's Future Farmer Programme

September 2014

A new programme to train youth for farming at Aratiatia Station by Lake Taupo

The Landcorp and AgNZ run ‘Future Farmer’ programme is a one-year (44 week) course that aims to give young people a good grounding in farming on one of Landcorp’s premiere breeding properties. 

The programme has been running at Aratiatia Station near Taupo, for 12 years and 89% of the 114 cadets who have graduated from the course are still working and progressing through the ag sector, with 76% directly on farms.

The proximity to Taupo means trainees can live off the property and usually car pool to the station each day. Each trains a dog or two, kenneling them at Aratiatia with extra training opportunities at the Taupo Dog Trials Club facilities.

Up to 16 Future Farmer students work and learn on the station at any one time. The aim is to earn a Level 3 National Certificate in Agriculture (Sheep and Beef) as well as all the farm safety skills required to work on Landcorp farms.

Landcorp Aratiatia has a mix of easy, rolling land running away from Lake Taupo towards Reporoa and includes smaller properties farming under the N cap in the Lake Taupo catchment. In total there are three blocks.

With seven full time staff and 17,000 stock units, it makes a great teaching property and an excellent place to learn the basic on-farm practical skills,

The station is one of Landcorp’s principal sheep and cattle breeding properties. It has a high-performing ewe flock of 8,000 with a five-year average lambing percentage of 153%. The 1,150 beef cow herd has averaged 95% for the same period.

Manager Mark Cunningham says the main role of the property is to deliver store lambs and calves to the Landcorp finishing properties, as well as beef and deer finishing.

Around 50 ha is regrassed each year. Mark says it’s a challenging climate with challenging soils.

Students are accepted from all over NZ with most coming from the North Island. Aratiatia takes trainees from city backgrounds as well as those from farms. Trainees tend to be years 12 and 13 students, although there have been “mature” students taken on. This year there is only one female trainee but in the past the ratio has been up to 50:50. Manager Mark Cunningham says female trainees have won the cadet of the year in 8 of the past 11 years.

The course is run by Agriculture NZ, a subsidiary of PGG Wrightson, who provides a tutor – David Chatterton. David has been a tutor at Aratiatia for two years after 20 years sharemilking, 11 years spray contracting, fencing and tractor driving, and farm supervising sheep and beef farms and is “absolutely enjoying it”. Being able to use his contacts and experience in the arable sector enhances his students’ knowledge and is useful on an easy, rolling property like Aratiatia.

Mark Cunningham’s job is to make sure the training fits with the commercial demands of the property. He says he doesn’t have to manufacture opportunities for students to learn and there’s plenty going on the station without having to dream up stuff. He incorporates the students into farm planning and encourages them to keep farm diaries and observe what is happening around them.

Students learn basic skills in livestock husbandry, pasture management, machinery use and fencing; as well as farm safety and life skills so they can look after themselves on-farm. Training is delivered by special provider Agriculture New Zealand, Landcorp’s partner in the Future Farmer programme.

At the end of their year, Future Farmer students who meet the required standard may be given the opportunity to apply for Farm Trainee positions within Landcorp.

The hardest working and most successful graduates will be offered places on Landcorp’s new Step into Shepherding programme and over the next two years will work around some of Landcorp’s 137 properties enhancing their knowledge with extra training and adding to their skills with support from their farm managers.

Modules covered include:
•    Livestock health and feeding
•    Animal breeding
•    Pastures, soils and fertilisers
•    Quad and tractor driving
•    Fencing and farm maintenance
•    Shearing shed operations

On average, students spend 3-4 days on practical and the other 1-2 days are spent in the classroom. Guest speakers include industry specialists from commercial and Landcorp backgrounds. The students/cadets also get to make trips to other Landcorp stations.

Mark Cunningham says they’re strict about use of cellphones. They’re only allowed to use them during breaks and mainly carry them for safety reasons. Landcorp is strict about a ban on drugs and alcohol, which includes testing.

Christine Wellington is a former top trainee from 2010. She left Aratiatia and went to work on a Landcorp property at Te Anau, and then on to Mt Linton station. Mark Cunningham says he’s very happy her back on deck. He says she’s a great advocate for the benefits of the course.

This course approved for New Zealand Domestic Students.  Course fees are $2900.00 (GST incl).