In November and December of 2023, Alex Ferguson made the trip over to New Zealand to undertake her Trans-Tasman Travel Bursary experience.
Spending four weeks traveling the country, Alex visited agricultural operations around New Zealand, investigating the different production systems.
Read her report here:
Trans-Tasman Travel Bursary Scholarship – Alex Ferguson
26th November 2023 – 15th December 2023
- 20 days
- 6 Angus Studs
- 2 Charolais Studs
- 5 Sheep Studs
- 4 Commercial Farms
- 1 day with an agronomist
Outside my comfort zone in an unfamiliar country making unforgettable memories and building skills and knowledge that will last me a lifetime. That is how I would begin to describe my experience. Firstly, though a massive thanks and appreciation must go to the Angus Foundation and the New England Travel Centre who provided this incredible opportunity for young agricultural professionals to be a part of. I am also incredibly fortunate to have an employer who supports and promotes these kinds of endeavours. An enormous amount of thanks must go to the Archer Family, Landfall Angus Team and in particular Frank Archer who encouraged and supported me to apply for the scholarship and allowed me the time away from the farm, as well as assisting me to connect with contacts in New Zealand, something I will be forever grateful for.
From Woodbank Angus, 30mins north of Kaikoura, to Mt Linton Station, 2 hours south of Queenstown, and too many stops in between to mention them all. A common trend of all the places was I got to see magnificent countryside, productive and fit for purpose cattle, as well as meet the most incredible people. The exposure to various New Zealand agricultural sectors allowed me to come away with not only a better understanding of the New Zealand industry but also allowed me to reflect and develop a better understanding of the Australian industry. There is significant pressure on producers in New Zealand to maximise production with ever increasing overhead costs whilst adhering to strict government environmental protocols. As Australian producers I believe we need to be aware of what protocols have been implemented in New Zealand so we can be at the forefront of what could possibly also impact our future farming practices. If we can start implementing small changes to our practices now, then our ability to adapt to these ever-increasing pressures of our social license to farm will be much better off.
A main area of focus of my trip was to build a better understanding of the difference in breeding philosophy in which sees some seed stock producers registering and receiving genetic evaluation of their animals through Angus NZ whilst others through Angus Pro (Angus Australia). Unfortunately, I discovered this topic has created a significant divide in the Angus breed in New Zealand. Whilst this may be the case I visited producers on both sides of the equation and something that was evident on all farms was they knew there ‘why’ and ‘who’ they were producing a genetic package for and in my perspective that is one of the most important factors of the whole system. Something that was commonly communicated was that sadly politics had gotten in the way of individuals ability to acknowledge that every producer in the Angus world and broader breeds makes management decisions that suit their system and client base. If everyone had the same goal posts, the breed wouldn’t be where it is today. Producing top quality genetics can be a harsh world and a highly rewarding one all at the same time and I can whole heartily say every farm I visited was doing their best to uphold the highest of standards for the Angus breed whilst doing their bit to continually work to improve what they had.
I was very fortunate to visit Matt and Katy Iremonger at Willesden Farms on the Banks Peninsula. They run a diverse operation consisting of hill country sheep and beef breeding, intensive irrigated finishing and dairy support, along with dairy farms and native and exotic forestry. Matt has just spent the last 12 months undertaking a Nuffield scholarship, travelling the world researching ways to solve the bobby calf issue in the dairy industry. I was fortunate to see progeny of trial work Matt has been conducting using semen from high genetic merit beef animals and putting them in dairy animals to produce a high value premium beef product. The progress he has made was exciting to see and I look forward to seeing his final results for both the future of the dairy and beef industry.
I was very lucky to be hosted by some incredibly generous people who provided the best hospitability and most magnificent places to stay. I cannot thank every single person who I met in New Zealand enough for being so giving with their time and open and willing to share their knowledge and story. I hope to stay connected with these people and in years to come return the favour.
To all future Angus Australia Trans-Tasman recipients, I encourage you to take on this incredible opportunity with an open mind and put yourself out there to be challenged. Personally, this experience placed me way out of my comfort zone but now I have completed my travels I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences that will continue to have a significant influence on my future endeavours. Be open to visiting places that aren’t solely or at all Angus breeders as some of the best learnings that can happen for both Angus as a breed and us as individuals can be taken in what others are doing and achieving, it may be the next big influencer to our system and breed.
Feature image: Ben and Caroline Murray from Woodbank Angus, Kaikoura are pictured with Alex Ferguson (centre).
THIS COULD BE YOU
If you want to have an experience just like Alexandra, apply for the 2024 Angus Foundation Trans Tasman Exchange!