Friday, 13 September 2019 11:55

Hawke’s Bay shepherd seizes his opportunities

Written by  Staff Reporters
While not originally from a farm, Chris Hursthouse has carved out a rewarding career in the agriculture industry. While not originally from a farm, Chris Hursthouse has carved out a rewarding career in the agriculture industry.

Chris Hursthouse (22) is proof you don’t have to grow up on a farm to succeed in farming.

He is a shepherd for the R+C Buddo Trust at Poukawa, near Hastings. And he chairs Tikokino Young Farmers, a position he took last October.

Hursthouse has been in his current job at Poukawa for one year. Finishing 12,000 lambs through the winter and spring, and 3000 more in the summer and autumn, is no easy feat.

“There are three of us plus the boss, and we get together weekly to determine what needs to be done and set a plan.”

His day can include weighing or drenching lambs, shifting stock or repairing fences.

“In spring we spend a lot of time weighing and drafting lambs,” he said. “September, October and November are our biggest months when we’re supplying lambs weekly to the meat works.”

The trust finishes 15,000 lambs and 500 bulls a year on four blocks totalling 825ha. All the animals are used to being around people.

“The operation has a big emphasis on using plantain and clover forage crops to fatten lambs,” says Hursthouse.

“Plantain grows really well here through the autumn and spring with stock finishing exceptionally well on it.”

Hursthouse was recently named winner of the inaugural Hawke’s Bay Shepherd of the Year award. He put himself forward for the title, part of the Hawke’s Bay Primary Sector Awards, after seeing a post on social media.

He says he found the application and judging a beneficial exercise which encouraged him to think about his future.

“As part of the application process I had to submit a CV, a cover letter and a five year career plan,” he explains. “It made me stop and think where I’d like to be in five years and what I have to do to ensure I achieve my goals.”

On a rapid rise through the industry, Hursthouse was raised on a lifestyle block and attended Lindisfarne College. A “passion for being outside and for animals” led him to study through Taratahi to gain basic farm skills. 

He landed his first summer job in Ongaonga. He then took the plunge to dramatically grow his knowledge by taking a job in Kereru, working on two farms. It was a great way to learn from different farmers.

One property was a sheep and beef breeding and finishing farm, the other a large scale deer breeding, finishing and velveting property.

“I’d never seen a deer until I started working at that farm,” he said. “It was a good way to gain a broad range of skills and understand different aspects of farming production.”

Hursthouse also enjoys getting involved in his local community as chair of NZ Young Farmers at Tikokino.

“NZ Young Farmers clubs are a great way for young people, especially those new to an area or working in isolated jobs, to make friends.”

As a past student of Taratahi, Hursthouse was saddened to hear about the education provider’s demise.

 “It can be a struggle to get into the primary industries if you’re not from a farm,” he said. 

“Taratahi played a vital role in giving young people training and an understanding of basic skills to help launch their careers. Its closure has left a big gap that needs to be filled.”

His advice for young urbanites considering a career on the land is to work for progressive employers who embrace new ideas.

Hursthouse’s goal is to one day buy a farm.

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