Grace Gibberd

Herd manager

Although she grew up in Hamilton, spending time on relatives’ farms as a child sparked an interest in farming and led Grace into a career she loves.
“Being a farmer means you are an agronomist, vet, mechanic, animal nutritionist, machine operator, and soil scientist. It also means early starts and long hours during busy times of the year, but you can’t beat working outdoors.”

After leaving Hamilton Christian School (where she studied English, Statistics, Biology, Chemistry, and Agricultural and Horticultural Science in Year 13), Grace went to Massey University to study a Bachelor of Science with a major in Agricultural Science and a minor in Animal Science.

“Uni was a great learning experience,” she says. “I enjoyed being able to study a topic that I was really interested in and passionate about. It was also exciting – although a bit daunting at the time – leaving home and becoming more independent.”

Since graduating two years ago, Grace has been working at DairyNZ’s Scott Farm in Waikato in a role that combines her love of science with her love of hands-on farm work and animals.

Scott Farm is a research farm, so Grace is involved in research work, like sample taking, data recording and animal observation, as well as farm duties such as stockwork, milking and feeding out.

“I enjoy working as part of a big team and being at the forefront of current research projects that are being conducted in the industry. It’s super interesting!”

Grace says studying an agricultural degree provided her with a strong foundation of knowledge that she uses every day. “It has allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the reasons behind tactical management decisions made and given me the skills to be able to contribute to these discussions.”

At last year’s Dairy Industry Awards, she was named Dairy Trainee of the Year, beating nine other finalists from around the country. “It was really exciting to be recognised in my field and get involved with the wider industry.”

If you’re interested in a career in dairying, Grace’s advice is to not let your background dictate what career paths you think you can and can’t do. “There are plenty of options for study and learning if you want to get into dairying, whether that’s an agricultural degree at university or on-the-job training through Primary ITO courses.”

As one of New Zealand’s largest employers, the dairy sector needs motivated and passionate people to work as dairy farmers, agri-business professionals and agri-scientists.

Holly works as a research associate with DairyNZ, a wide-ranging role that sees her planning research, carrying out trials on farms, analysing data and samples, and presenting results to peers, scientists and farmers.

“I really enjoy the variation in the role,” she says. “No two days are the same and I get to be involved in some of the bigger-picture science as well as the nitty gritty samples.

“There’s some desk-based work and some practical, and I get to spend time outside and with the animals.” Holly grew up on a dairy farm in Te Awamutu so she knows first-hand what being a farmer is all about.

“Agriculture is such a critical part of New Zealand,” she says, “and farmers are expected to do so much. They are part-time vets, animal managers, agronomists, pasture managers, people managers, accountants, financial planners, machine operators, mechanics, builders, welders, health and safety officers … and the list goes on!”

Running parallel to her lifelong interest in farming is a lifelong interest in science. “I like asking why, and I like things that make sense.”

Holly took Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Statistics and Calculus in Year 13 at Te Awamutu College before heading to Massey University where she combined her two passions to study a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry “with a side of agriculture”.

“Although the degree I studied was not entirely agricultural, I took a lot of the agriculture/animal papers to keep the interest in agriculture/dairy industry alive.”

Following a summer internship with DairyNZ, Holly applied for a DairyNZ master’s scholarship and completed her Master of Science on methane emissions in dairy heifers.

If you’re wondering what to do when you leave school, Holly’s advice is to choose something you are interested in and can see yourself doing in the future – even if it’s just at an industry level and not a specific job.

“You don’t have to know exactly which job you might want to do, but if you can narrow it down to the type of work, or the industry, then that helps a lot. The specific job is less important and you can work that out as you go.

“Although my degree wasn’t a specific agriculture degree, it has not held me back in getting into the career I have chosen to follow – it is still science and agriculture.

“You don’t have to have it all planned out right now.” Holly plans to continue working in research and development, finding opportunities to follow her passion and develop her knowledge, in order to help farmers and optimise resilience in the dairy sector.

Holly Flay
Dairy Farming

Dairy farming

A dairy farming career is everything from caring for animals to learning new skills, enhancing the environment, and earning good money.

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