A self-confessed city-girl with a background in property management is retraining to be a calf-rearer because of Covid-19.

Stevens, 30, made the switch from office to farm when New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown and she was at home, out of work and searching for a job.

"I spotted a position for calf-rearing and there was no experience needed and all training given," Stevens said.

"Lockdown was a bit of a struggle so I wanted to find something with structure and thought this is something I can do."

Stevens went on to sign up for GoDairy's free online and farm-based course - a push by DairyNZ to recruit more New Zealanders into farming.

She's one of more than 200 people who have registered for the three-week course that the industry hopes will help fill more than 1000 positions.

Stevens has completed the online part of the course designed as an introduction to those interested in the industry.

"I really loved the training, which was done online over Zoom, so I am looking forward to the practical stuff and getting some farm experience," Stevens said.

"There were about 15 of us on the course and I would say most were based in the city and looking to make the move to the country."

Stevens had already made the first move to rural life from central Wellington last year when she bought a lifestyle-block in Waipukurau, Hawke's Bay, with her partner Tessa Flaws.

"My partner Tessa's parents have a cattle farm next door so I have had a bit of a taste of farm life through them," she said.

Former property manager Anna Stevens has swapped the office for the farm in a post-Covid career change. Photo / Supplied
Former property manager Anna Stevens has swapped the office for the farm in a post-Covid career change. Photo / Supplied

"I have some farm experience coming up through GoDairy and then I'll start with the calf-rearing."

Stevens said if she enjoyed calf-rearing she would look at becoming a farm assistant.

"There are plenty of short courses and it seems like a very well-supported industry, there is a lot of help available," she said.

More than 1000 people are needed in the industry that has been left short-staffed because of Covid-19 border closures and lack of migrant workers.

The busy calving season starts soon so action was needed to have people trained in time.

"There are 1000 jobs up for grabs now on dairy farms, with plenty of work in Waikato, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland, in particular," Jane Muir, from Dairy NZ, said.


"We want more Kiwis in dairy and our GoDairy campaign is designed to train and recruit them."

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Muir said GoDairy was about creating awareness of job opportunities in dairy – and it had a big emphasis on ensuring newcomers understood farm life before they arrived.

The first week of the Farm Ready Training programme builds on the trainees' understanding of working and living on a New Zealand dairy farm, completed online.

At the end of week one, attendees should know if a career in dairying is right for them.

The second and third weeks of training include practical basics of animal handling, farm infrastructure, and farm vehicle safety.

There are about 12,000 farm businesses throughout New Zealand that employ more than 34,000 people.