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A graduate program for the dairy industry.


Young dairy farmers are hitting the ground running thanks to a new graduate training programme in Canterbury.

When Tony Dodunski visited a Lincoln University careers expo last year, he spotted a gap in the training market. "Many individual businesses and professions offer graduates something the general dairy industry doesn’t — and that’s a graduate training programme.”

Tony and others set about plugging the gap by developing the Grassroots Dairy Management Training Programme with a network of highly regarded farmers and industry professionals. "Our aim is to attract bright graduates to the dairy sector, help fast-track them to management and decision-making positions, and provide them with skills and support to become successful,” says Tony, who owns 219ha Beaumaris Dairies near Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

Graduates are employed under normal employment agreements, with competitive salaries and on
farm accommodation. During that time, they’re paid to attend weekly training modules. Five farmers
have taken on graduates so far.

One graduate taking part is Peter O’Connor (24), who's farm manager this season for sharemilkers Steven and Rosie Ketter, after being 2IC for their contract milking business last season.

Peter says he’s loving the programme."It’s a great way to build knowledge on subjects you’re not 100% sure about and to be able to discuss them with the experienced farmers who support the programme.

“It’s great to learn and socialise with like-minded people.”

"I look forward to Wednesdays, when we do our training modules. There are 25 of them and they
cover everything from people management skills to financial planning, pasture management,
and how to use software like LIC’s MINDA. Then there’s the social aspect: there are five of us
on the programme and it’s great to learn and socialise with like minded people,” says Peter.

The farmer-led programme is in its pilot phase and will be extended to 10 graduates next year.

"So far, it’s available to graduates living in Canterbury, but we’ll look at rolling it out to other parts of the country in future. But in the meantime, we’d like to hear from any students who might be interested in doing the programme,” says Tony.

He added that DairyNZ has been instrumental to the pilot’s success, helping to fund branded
clothing for the graduates, and some of the module presenters.

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From Insight Dairy magazine, see