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There's no such thing as 'can't'

I started out as a townie girl no farming backbone what-so-ever. Starting at the bottom of the dairy ladder can be somewhat daunting, however I tried it once and that was it, I had the bug for farming. This was what I wanted to do and I wanted to do it well.

I'd dreamed of becoming a farmer since a kid but it was always hard to get that first foot in the door. I was fortunate to meet a very good Waikato farmer who was contract milking and 50/50 sharemilking where I spent 2 years heavily involved everyday on the farm. We separated when my youngest was 4 months old so a new start was in order and I made a call to go back dairy farming and work my own way from the bottom up.

I've thrived in the industry as I'm a huge animal lover, a big fan of being outdoors and keeping physical. I love calving time, it'd be my favourite time of the year. Dairy is an industry that is continuously challenging, it offers you to grow your skills and knowledge every day and no day is ever the same. Bad bouts of weather are not ideal but they strengthen our ability to be diverse and resilient, regardless of a good or bad season.

Yes I had a baby - but at this point my options to support my now two kids were, get a job I possibly won't enjoy, working from 9-5 paying through the roof for childcare, go on a benefit, or to continue what I love, get to see my beautiful babies for breakfast and lunch every single day and still be home at 5 with the luxury of 3 days off. I've pushed myself quite quickly so far, have been an assistant calf rearer, 2IC, sole charge calf rearer and now herd manager. I would like to get back to the life of a small farm, contract or lower-order share milking, but my goal remains for now: at 30 to be managing my own farm.

Big hours and early starts seem off putting at first but it is all mind over matter. We are all capable of anything we put our minds to and passion is first and foremost a key driver. It hasn't been an easy process over the years, as employers have often looked at me as a high risk because "How can a solo mum surely do the job?" I feel people have shut the door immediately. Because I do have kids, I'm often not considered at all. I've really worked hard to prove my commitment to the farm but also ensuring my family, does not go without.

Friends and family have told me I'm crazy for working in an industry like this and trying to bring up two beautiful kids but there's not too many school or sports events that I have missed, I do my best to make it, even if I am often that late mum. It's really not all that bad when you love what you do. I have an aupair who helps balance my life out, yes it's difficult at times but what's not to love about making new friends and learning traditions from across the globe. I've had plenty of setbacks but I've really fought them, everything I've been told I can't do has motivated me and helped me push through. I have been tested over my years in the dairy industry, but I've also learned my strength and capabilities along the way and really proved my work ethic.

To be successful will always require good determination and lots of it. I've been very fortunate to work under a big farming operation, it is high input and a very established set up. I do work long days but I consider our roster reasonable and we are on par with good production and happy cows which always makes happy farmers. My boss has guided us, dealt with good and bad situations and grown us as a team by being understanding and 100% supportive day in day out.

Employers who remember the young become worthy when they yield their shiny new perspectives, for past mistakes will allow them to learn. Staff management is a hard knack to master, if you're finding your staff turnover is high it could be worthwhile focusing on addressing it more closely. The reward of walking into a new season with a team you know, will always be a huge stress relief in itself. Regardless of where we are on this ladder, always accept where you are to realign your focus of where you some day hope to be.

Always be growing a team that's got your back, as much as you've got theirs

Trudy Bensted

Mum of two and herd manager on a large dairy farm outside of Pleasant Point in South Canterbury.

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