Michael / One Way Flight From Ireland

Michael’s story

Michael has been in New Zealand for 14 years, but is originally from Ireland. He fell in love with New Zealand after being persuaded to visit by a couple of Kiwis he worked with in the UK. “We flew into Christchurch and drove down the West Coast and I thought “Oh, this is an amazing place”. Then we got to Invercargill, went out for a meal with these guys, went onto their farm, and they offered me a job.

“My grandparents were dairy farmers, so I’ve always been around farming. I tried a trade, as an electrician – I did enjoy it, but I enjoyed farming more. I’ve always liked farming – the outdoors and the lifestyle, and the Kiwi system. Like in the UK, the stress. I was on a high-input system in the UK, and so I was milking twice daily, and you’d be in the cowshed for eight hours of that day, probably more. You’re milking all year round, you’re feeding all year round, you’re mating all year round.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got to New Zealand. The weather is a lot better than in Ireland. The two countries are fairly similar, apart from the weather. You’ve definitely got better summers in New Zealand. And look, I wouldn’t say laid-back, but you’ve definitely got more time to do more lifestyle stuff.”

Why a smaller herd?

Michael likes the smaller cow numbers as he gets to know each cow individually.

“Milking 1000 cows doesn’t appeal to me, with staffing. You know them better. I was talking with Dean {farm owner} the other day about tags and stuff, and he’s like, ‘Oh, but you could take a photo or look at a cow out in the paddock and know her number’, you know you don’t have that with large herds. And with AI’ing myself and milking them every day, you know exactly who’s who, and who’s doing what, and if you want to get rid of any cows you don’t like. It suits our operation.”

He is happy to continue on in his current situation. “I love it. We got on real well with the farm owners. We all play a bit of golf together, we socialise together a bit.”

Why go to SMASH events?

Michael is a believer in the value of attending industry events, where he learns new techniques, tips and tricks to try out on farm. He also values the opportunity to network with other farmers, which can be especially beneficial if conditions on farm are challenging.

“It’s good to realise that you’re not the only one that’s got no grass, and it is good to hear other people and get their opinions too. Nobody has the same system. You’ll pick up ideas, take them back home, and try something new. It could be something really simple but really useful.”