Alan is now putting his learning into practice on a farm that’s been in the family for four generations.
The 220ha (effective) farm near Tirau has been a constant in Alan’s life. He grew up milking cows, driving tractors and doing general farm work for his father and other farmers around the district.
Alan completed a Bachelor of Sports and Leisure degree at the University of Waikato before heading south to train as a teacher at the University of Canterbury. He taught around the world for the next 12 years, before swapping a classroom in Rarotonga for a new career as operations manager on the family farm in 2013, milking 735 cows.
Alan realised that farming had changed significantly while he’d been away, so he enrolled in a Diploma in Agribusiness Management with Primary ITO. It was an easy decision for someone with a thirst for knowledge and the desire to discover more about farming.
The diploma is taught by multiple training providers across the country. It’s split into four modules targeting different areas of agribusiness management, including: human resource management, financial management and planning, business management, resource management and sustainability.
During his diploma, one of Alan’s major tasks was completing a comprehensive case study for another farm.
“I looked at the business, the farmer’s goals, debt levels, budgets, the geography of the property, and areas of strength and weakness. It took three months and was a 24,000-word report. This exercise gives you the confidence to do the same thing for your own business, whether you are a sharemilker, a contract milker or a farm owner.”
He’s been putting his new skills into practice, shifting the farm from a System 5 to a System 2 over the past few years.
“Under System 5, we were making milk from money by buying lots of imported feed. This year we’re planting seven hectares (3 percent of the farm) in maize, but nothing is cheaper than grass. I’m not scared to try things out. If it doesn’t work I will try something else.”
Alan says the diploma has equipped him with invaluable technical skills.
“It’s given me the ability to self-reflect and the knowledge to make better decisions. How do you know when a deal is good or bad? Without knowledge you don’t know.”
DairyNZ is a strong supporter of the Diploma in Agribusiness, providing advice and resources. For more information contact Primary ITO 0800 20 80 20.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy November 2016.