“I love working with animals and I’m a hands-on learner so my apprenticeship in dairy was a natural fit.”
Name: Eilish Duthie
Grew up: Southland
Role: Contract Milker
Pathway: Dairy Pastoral Production Apprenticeship
After leaving school you studied nursing. What made you switch to an apprenticeship in dairy?
I realised that learning in a classroom wasn’t for me - I couldn’t sit still for long enough! I grew up on a dairy farm and enjoyed my part-time job as a relief milker while studying nursing. When I worked full-time as a farm assistant, I decided to pursue an apprenticeship in dairy.
What were/are the advantages of your on-the-job training?
I’m a hands-on learner so my apprenticeship in dairy pastoral production through Primary ITO over two years was a natural fit for me. It was a compatible way for me to learn, I could study at my own pace and didn’t end up with a big student loan.
I’m now studying a Diploma in Agribusiness Management through Primary ITO. I’ve just finished a financial paper which is very relevant to my job, especially when we have discussions with our accountant and bank manager.
How well have you been supported to get to where you are now?
When we started contract milking on my parents’ farm, we had no experience running a business. Both Jono (my husband) and I had farming experience but running a business was a steep learning curve.
From the beginning I’ve had a strong support network: my husband, parents and Primary ITO advisor. My dad is very hands-on. He’s our mentor and guides us 100%. I’m really grateful for the support of experts like our accountant, bank manager and farm advisor too.
What does your current role as a contract milker involve day to day?
A bit of everything. My husband and I work as a team on my parents’ 420 cow farm in Southland. My time is split between working in the office and being hands-on on the farm. I manage our payroll and accounts, pay our bills and do our GST returns. Without me, we couldn’t run the business. Without my husband, we couldn’t run the farm.
What do you love most about your job?
The variety on different days and through the seasons. In spring I spend more time in the calf shed, while in summer I spend more time around the farm. Growing up on my family’s farm, I had a passion for animal health and always enjoyed helping out. I wouldn’t go back to nursing!
What are your plans for the future?
We’d like to buy into our own herd. Our ultimate goal is to own our own farm.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Some people have built up a negative environmental image of dairy farming. I always encourage people to visit our farm to understand what we do and how we do it. We have so many policies and procedures in place to support best practise for animal health and the environment. We’ve planted trees around our creeks; we’ve moved fence lines to keep the cows further away from waterways; and we carefully manage the distribution of effluent over the farm.
What would you say to someone considering a career in dairy?
Go for it! We’ve employed someone without any experience but they have a great work ethic and have been willing to learn. If you’re passionate about what you do, it’s worth finding the right person to give you a go.