While his friends dreamed of glamorous sporting careers Mihaka Beckham dreamed of working the land and being a dairy farmer.
Mihaka began his career in dairy farming when he was seven, saying he would often head out to his uncle’s dairy farm at Whangarei to help in the school holidays.
“My uncle was a pretty good dairy farmer and I definitely looked up to him.”
“He showed me how to put the cups on, take them off, spray the cows, put up break fences, fix fences, the list goes on. He showed me the basics of being a dairy farmer. At the time I don’t think I realised how vital those skills would be in my career later on.
“It showed me from a really young age what I was going into and helped me understand fully what I wanted to be doing. I knew what to expect so it wasn’t like I was going into the unknown.”
Though opportunities have been plenty for Mihaka, he says if it wasn’t for some key people along the way none of this would be possible.
“Without having my uncle offering that experience I don’t know if I would have ever really done much. I also had a teacher at school who pushed me get to get stuck in. Without that I don’t know what I would have ended up doing.”
He scrambled to do every bit of work experience he could while studying at Whangarei Boys High School then from there went off to embark on his career in dairy farming.
“I already had that interest there from my uncle’s farm but I got into dairy farming through an agricultural Gateway programme called Primary Industries at Whangarei Boys. They would organise work experience opportunities for me.”
He believes the dairy sector has abundant opportunities but, like everything, it takes a bit to find your feet and that shouldn’t push prospective dairy farmers away from the sector.
“As long as you are hard-working, determined and keen on the outdoors you’ll find something that suits you in the dairy sector. There’s a lot of bosses out there who don’t really mind or necessarily focus on how much experience someone may or may not have. They just want good, reliable people.”
A big part of falling in love with the sector was the introduction of Primary ITO courses.
The courses allowed him to not only grow as a person but also develop day-to-day confidence and clarity around dairy farming.
“The courses give you the confidence to believe in yourself and what you are doing on the farm. I’ll tell myself you can do that or you can pass that. Some of the courses are really bloody hard but you’re learning the right stuff which is important.”
“With dairy farming, there is so much to learn, like you could never know it all. There is always something around the corner.”
“If you really want to be a dairy farmer then you should be doing these courses to better yourself and be able to understand why everything is done on the farm.”
“Once you’ve started this higher education you can start to understand why you are doing all these day-to-day things and everything just makes more sense day to day.”
Mihaka is up to level three in his Primary ITO course, studying pasture management and though this further study is crucial for young people getting into the sector.
Aside from being able to grow as a dairy farmer he says Primary ITO gives him some actual qualifications on paper, which is crucial in this day and age.
“These courses show on paper that you are capable of doing something on the farm. It’s the stuff prospective employers want to see.”
Looking ahead, Mihaka says when the time is right he would like to look at contract milking and perhaps start to build equity through calf rearing and leasing.
Alternatively he might also look to go into partnership with his brother who is also dairy farming.
“It’s only me and my brother from our family that are dairy farming so we’re looking into doing something together. We were thinking maybe going into sharemilking or starting out with some calves first.
“We could possibly buy a bit of land and start doing calves with the goal of getting our own herd.”
Mihaka is quick to point out the number of opportunities available in dairy for young people and thinks they are often clouded by what people see on social media these days.
“People hop on their social media and see all this bad stuff about the dairy sector and form an opinion from that.
“I think public perception of the sector would be different if these young people could actually see what goes on in the dairy sector and understand it better. It is silly that they don’t even know where their milk comes from.
“There’s always going to be those people that put farmers down. But if you’ve been brought up on a farm and you know what goes on then you know what it’s all about.”
Adapted from Farmers Weekly High standards pay off
Photos: Dairy Farmer
“As long as you are hard-working, determined and keen on the outdoors you’ll find something that suits you in the dairy sector.”
SCHOOL: Whangarei Boys’ High School
TRAINING INSTITUTE: Gateway Programme, Primary Industries; Primary ITO
CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Farm Assistant