The first season has started well for new sharemilker Andrew Pritchard. Management of the 460-cow herd started in March, but he believes this helped him prepare well for the new season. He was able to plan for extra feed and supplements making sure the herd were in top condition right from the start.

Andrew, along with wife Sarah, were working on a Midhirst farm before starting management of Sarah's family farm. The couple have now taken the next step by taking on the role of sharemilker on the farm. While he feels confident about the on-farm decisions Andrew says that it is the business side where he has had the rude awakening. He discovered there are "lots of small expenses - the little things - under $1000", that need to be taken into account.

Andrew used to be a commercial builder but the nature of the job meant he was missing out on seeing his family grow up. So he and Sarah decided to change careers.

"Coming from commercial building I was used to the long work hours but now I also get to spend more time with the family," he says.

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As a builder Andrew had managed teams so has settled into this aspect of farming well. However, to build up his on-farm knowledge he enrolled in Primary ITO training. Completing a National Certificate in Agriculture Level 4 and National Certificate in Agriculture Production Management have helped him round out his knowledge.

The Primary ITO National Certificate in Agriculture Production Management is suitable for people looking to move into positions with responsibility for farm production. As well as preparing feed budgets, it helps manage variation in supply of feed, and how to manage feeding to achieve production targets. It also covers benchmarking your farm against others, developing production goals and developing action plans and analysing the results.

Primary ITO training is excellent, according to Andrew. As well as enjoying what you do, he believes in understanding what you are doing too. This has driven his own ongoing need for training and is an attitude he is passing on to his staff. As soon as the new season started he contacted his training adviser Tina Atkinson-Watt and enrolled his staff into programmes too.

Along with his think-ahead attitude, Andrew has helped set up their season to a strong start. He says "by preparing a feed budget early on, I was able to see he had a potential shortage of dry matter and was able to buy in extra before demand made prices rise".

Andrew doesn't put things off and believes this helps him keep on top of things and "stops things getting too stressful". He adds "he enjoys getting up early and the sense of achieving something before taking a break for breakfast".

While Andrew and Sarah are focused on what's ahead for their first season as sharemilkers they also have an eye on their long-term future. "Our aim is to increase our equity over time, and eventually own a farm."

For more information about Primary ITO's programmes and qualifications contact your local Training Adviser, phone 0800 20 80 20 or go to primaryito.ac.nz