By Elaine Fisher

An Overseas Experience and the international pandemic combined to thrust Scottish-born Zoe Bryson into a career in the New Zealand dairying industry.

Zoe, 24, grew up on her parents’ dairy farm in Scotland and worked part-time as a Reproduction Manager and AI Technician while gaining a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Bioscience (with Distinction).

“When I finished university, I was aware that if I worked on my parents’ farm, I would probably never leave so decided to take a six-month trip to New Zealand. While I was here Covid hit.”

Deciding to stay wasn’t hard and now Zoe is committed to a future in the NZ dairy industry because she enjoys its outdoor farming environment, and the opportunities the industry offers for progression to herd or farm ownership.

“There are more opportunities here for farm ownership. In Scotland, just about the only way to own a farm is to inherit it. I like the opportunity here to do that yourself through hard work.”

She has seen first-hand how that progression works as Zoe is herd manager for Central Plateau Share Farmer runners-up, Thomas and Therese Earls, who are equity partners on the Phillips Family Trust Lochannie Ltd a 185-hectare Mangakino property, milking 485 cows.

When Zoe first worked for Thomas and Therese, they were 50/50 sharemilking on a farm at Reporoa. Six months on they moved to Mangakino, taking Zoe with them as a valued member of their staff.

As well as her degree in agricultural bioscience, and her AI technician’s experience, Zoe brings another skill to dairying. In 2017, she won the Scottish Stockman of the Year title, only the third woman in 50 years to do so.

“That was a big achievement for me. I started stock judging at about 15 and won the title when I was 19. The judging is for dairy beef and sheep.”

Last year Zoe came second in the New Zealand Young Farmers national stock judging competition and she’s keen to compete again this year.

“The skills I learnt in stock judging help me assess body condition and when it comes to improving animals, I know what I’m looking for.”

While Zoe doesn’t miss the often wet cold conditions of Scotland, she does miss the close contact with cows she enjoyed on her parents’ farm. “The cows are housed for up to seven months of the year and milked three times a day. It’s a high-input system and you are constantly milking, mating calving the cows, feeding them and trimming their feet. Here once you milk the cows in the morning you don’t see them again until the afternoon.”

Zoe is a member of the South Waikato Young Farmers Club and enjoys the social, sporting and community involvement the club’s programme offers.