My name is Sophie Ferris and I am from Newry in County Down. I am currently working towards completing my Level 3 Advanced Technical Extended Diploma in Agriculture, which is a three-year course including a full year work placement on a farm.
I was delighted to get accepted onto the Level 3 course at Greenmount. In my first year I made so many new friends and enjoyed going to the college farm to do practical work and develop skills. I also enjoyed the new subjects and topics covered in class as I was learning about something I was always interested in.
For my placement year I decided to go to New Zealand as I have always wanted to travel and thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I received help from the staff at the college and NZ Dairy Careers to place me on the farm best suited to my skills.
I was over the moon when I heard that I had been selected to work on a 750 dairy cow farm in mid-Canterbury in the South Island of New Zealand. The herd is milked twice a day through a 54 bale rotary parlour.
When I first started in June 2019, the herd was dried off and I was responsible for moving fences for the cows grazing beet and mixing up batches of minerals. Over a busy calving period I helped rear over 200 replacement heifer calves.
After calving the farm prepared for the mating season followed by 10 weeks of AI, with 10 Jersey bulls used as sweepers afterwards. As all this was going on there was still milking, irrigators to move and shed maintenance to be completed.
During my placement so far I have improved so many skills including calf rearing, grassland management, milking in a rotary and have even learned to ride a trail bike. Although some tasks are similar to home, the farm scale is so much bigger and I have a regular routine with days off. I have certainly enjoyed my time to date in New Zealand and would recommend the experience to anyone.
The next step is to complete my final year of studies and then progress to honours degree level and ultimately employment in the animal feed sector as a nutritionist.
If you are interested in a career in the agriculture industry, come along to the CAFRE Open Day at Greenmount Campus on Wednesday, April 1, to hear about the range of courses available and see the facilities.