Forty-six-year-old Tony signed up for Fire and Emergency New Zealand nine years ago because he wanted to give back to his community and help people. One day he went straight from fighting a fire to the dairy shed to milk cows.
“It’s great that I have a flexible boss who knows that sometimes I have to go to a fire callout at short notice.”
Tony says it’s satisfying knowing he is making a difference by helping people. “We are there to help everyone who needs our help – including animals.
“As a firefighter you learn a lot of skills in managing situations and how to cope with different scenarios.”
All frontline people in Fire and Emergency New Zealand are trained in first aid – firefighters can be called out to medical emergencies to support the ambulance service.
“Depending on where ambulances are, we can be first on the scene to a heart attack for example, so knowing how to do CPR can save a life.”
On the farm, Tony works for a sharemilker with a 680-cow herd, in a team of five, plus two relief milkers. He’s been a dairy farmer for 25 years.
“I love the cows. They’re my favourite thing about dairy farming. They’re great to work with and they all have their own personalities and habits. They come up for a rub in the paddock or in the milking shed. I don’t have a favourite – I love them all.
“Milking can be quite relaxing if you have good cows, a good shed and a good team. I really enjoy it. With farming, it’s a good feeling to see what you’ve achieved – the condition of the cows, the milk and the farm,” says Tony. Looking after the environment is also really important. The farm has three wetlands that have been fenced off, pockets of native bush and planting down the sides of waterways.
Tony says he enjoys the rewards of farming – being outdoors, the physical work and working with his hands.
After growing up on a sheep and beef farm, Tony started out in the air force, training to be an aircraft mechanic. But the call of the country was too strong and he decided to go back to the land.
He chose dairy farming after talking to a friend of the family who organised dairy farming jobs. Today, Tony recommends young people interested in working in dairy talk to people already working in the sector. School career advisors, NZ Young Farmers and DairyNZ can help with this.
“Just get out there, give it a go and see if it’s right for you. Join the local Young Farmers club, meet other people in the sector, ask questions. Schools have great programmes,” he says.
Tony studied for a certificate in farm business management when he first started working in dairy. He studied through an industry training organisation and found it stood him in good stead. “It taught me a lot of the financial side of farming. Cows and grass are a big part of dairy farming but you also have to be able to sit in an office and do your budgets and financials.”
Communication is also really important on a farm, says Tony. “We all talk about things where I work. Young people ask questions and I enjoy helping them learn.”
He goes to DairyNZ discussion groups, which he finds helpful in getting the latest information. It’s also a great opportunity to meet up with other farmers. “If you’re struggling with something or if it’s a tough season, you realise you’re not the only one. It’s good to talk to people.”
Tony says he has worked in a range of roles in the dairy sector – from managing farms and sharemilking to where he is now – working for a sharemilker. He says it’s great there are so many options because you can choose the role that suits you at different stages of your life and for the lifestyle you want. One day he and his wife Lucy want to travel but right now they’re happy exactly where they are.
Senior communications advisor
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