It wasn’t too long ago farming in Southland was dominated by sheep, beef and deer farming. But the dairy boom soon led to growth in dairy farming and associated processing capability in the region. The Fonterra plant in Edendale is the largest raw milk powder plant in the world.
Shannon Topp is one of the TSRs based at the Farm Source store in Gore. Originally from Canterbury, Shannon and her husband made the move south five years ago, with their two young kids. The couple are currently 50/50 sharemilkers and are working towards taking the next step into farm ownership. Shannon has been part of the Farm Source team for three years and has held three positions in that time.
“I started as the partnership rep for the Southland/Otago region then moved to my current TSR position, and recently did a six-month secondment as an area manager,” says Shannon, who believes the co-operative model means Farm Source has a unique understanding of their customers’ needs.
“Farm Source understands their farmers’ businesses. Farmers are the shareholders, so our goal is to lower on-farm costs, as well as driving a return for the farmer’s business. We understand how the season is going, both on farm and financially, so we can react quickly and adjust our offerings to help when it’s needed most,” says Shannon.
Prior to working at Farm Source, Shannon spent nine years on the farm, so it’s fair to say she walks the talk when it comes to knowing what her customers are going through.
“I have that hands-on experience so understand the business. I know how important it is to receive trusted advice, and what’s most relevant to farmers and when,” says Shannon, who has a special interest in animal nutrition.
Receiving advice and guidance from a trusted source has been particularly important for her farmers after Southland was confirmed as ground zero for the introduction of Mycoplasma Bovis to New Zealand. Southland is home to about eight per cent of the national dairy herd and 10,346 cattle had been slaughtered in the region by the end of May, according to the Southland Times.
As the eradication plan gets underway, Farm Source teams throughout the country are focusing on the people affected in their local communities and helping them manage their way through these issues. A simple summary on biosecurity product availability has been developed to support farmers and is available in-store.
While some face the possibility of losing their herds, other Southland farmers will be focusing on winter grazing and transition feeding. Following a dry summer in Southland, Shannon’s irrigation experience from her time in Canterbury is invaluable.
“After the dry summer, I have a few farmers putting irrigation in. Drawing on my experience in Canterbury, I can point them to exactly what system will best suit them and their situation,” says Shannon.
And for any issue requiring additional expert input, Shannon’s specialist vendor reps are on hand to offer advice and support.
“I love that we are constantly learning, and have ongoing, on-the-job training. I utilise my vendor reps regularly, getting recommendations, confirming my ideas, and drawing from their knowledge pools,” she says.