After a busy start to calving last month, animal health is the focus for Waikato TSR Neil Dunderdale right now.
"Our farmers have been focusing on calving throughout July, and animal health will be a big focus this month when cows and calves need extra care. Then there will also be cropping decisions to make later in the month, ready for September planting to start," says Neil, who’s been the TSR for Farm Source Otorohanga for two-and-a-half years.
As is often the case with farming, those September cropping plans are totally weather dependent. Just a month or so ago, wells in the region had been at near record low levels and the region had less than 50 percent of its usual rainfall year-to-date.
"Climate plays a big part in farming and in this area we can often have four seasons in one day with this time of year bringing smashing frosts in the south that can last till lunchtime, widespread rain and some lovely sunny days too. Temperatures can range from negative six right up to 18 degrees. This itself brings its own challenges as farmers try hard to feed cows enough quality feed while doing as little damage as possible to the ground," says Neil.
The weather isn’t the only King Country quirk Neil has to contend with – there’s also the area’s unique topography. "The geographical area I work in is quite well-spread, with my furthest customer being nearly two hours away from my store. We also have very little flat land and, with the environmental challenges we face around cropping grounds, farmers are needing to look differently at what, how and where to plant crops/grasses that will have minimum environmental impacts." The good news is Neil has a passion for agronomy and for driving results for his farmers.
"The highlight of my job is being out on farm with my customers, learning about the business they run and helping fine-tune some areas to make more profitable outcomes - especially when it comes to seeds and cropping," he says.
Neil spent seven years dairy farming in Te Awamutu and this real-world experience has been crucial for building trust with the 260 farmers in his catchment area. "Having an understanding of what happens on farm through the seasons goes a long way with farmers. Being able to notice when is or isn’t a good time to visit is crucial - farmers really don’t appreciate reps that linger around when they are super busy! My experience as a farmer and in farming-related jobs also is a huge help as it gives them some peace of mind that I have been there, done that," he says.
Neil’s other work experience includes two-and-a-half years on the shop floor at Farm Source Te Awamutu (then RD1), two-and-a-half years at Inghams Nutrition, and five years as a TSR for PGG Wrightson Te Awamutu before a stint in Western Australia as Area Manager for PGG Wrightson there.
"It’s great being able to talk to other farmers I have helped look after for 10-plus years and seeing that what was done back then is still going well for them now, such as making new pastures last longer. The general opinion from farmers is new grasses only last three or four years then need replacing but I have pastures that are 10-years-old still producing good returns, which is proof that if it’s done right it can and will last," Neil says.
Neil arrived in New Zealand in 1987 from the UK with his parents and sister but he is now the only family member still living here.
"I love this country and am proud to call it home. The friends I have made and kept over this time are my family and I love spending time with them all whenever I get the chance." Neil enjoys fishing and hunting and is an avid rugby fan and a keen supporter of the All Blacks and Waikato/Chiefs.