Following in family footsteps

Ireland Cain - West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year. By Elaine Fisher.

When Ireland Cain left school to study management at polytech, she discovered the career path she really wanted to pursue was dairy farming.

“When I finished my studies, I went relief milking before going farming fulltime in 2020,” the 22- year-old 2023 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year says.

Ireland, named for her grandfather’s homeland, grew up in Westport.

“My grandparents were farmers. My dad took another career path but now he’s back in the industry.”

Ireland, who won the emerging talent award last year, is herd manager on Rough River Farm’s 377-hectare, 800-cow property in Reefton. She won $6500 in prizes and two merit awards.

“When I won the emerging talent award, I made it my mission to enter the following year and win the trainee award.”

Farming inland at Reefton comes with its challenges, including cold winters and extreme weather events.

“We feed crops in the winter and have a run-off where the cows go for about seven weeks, before coming back to the dairy platform for calving.”

The farm wasn’t impacted by the flooding which affected other parts of the region this winter. “We did suffer from a summer drought and went once-a-day milking earlier than normal, but then eventually we got some rain so in the end the season is back on track”.

“I’m a proud dairy farmer, who is environmentally cautious and aware. I’m excited to keep doing my part to protect and nurture New Zealand’s environment.

“I’ve encountered some very knowledgeable and skilful farmers who I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside, learn from and form great relationships with.”

Ireland’s goal of farm ownership, along with her close relationship with her family, keeps her motivated during harder times.

“When I have time off, I love going back home to Westport, hanging out with my dad, my brother and his kids. We go kontiki fishing on summer evenings and I almost always end up on the farm. We enjoy spending quality time together and talk a lot about our future goals as a family.

“I have set realistic goals and find myself consistently reassessing and adjusting them to keep me on track.

“Farm ownership takes a lot of hard work and I’m prepared to do everything it takes to get there.”

Next season Ireland will be moving with her team to manage a 1000-cow farm near Hinds in mid-Canterbury and she is looking forward to improving her skills and gaining knowledge about farming in a markedly different region from the West Coast.

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee category was Ros McCann, and third place went to Alexandra Davidson.