Chloe Mackle was scared of the dark and anything that moved – but when she was challenged to try dairy farming, she decided to go for it.
After growing up in North Shore, Auckland, her first day on the job was a massive learning curve. "All I knew was that my milk came in a bottle and my meat in a packet," says Mackle.
Now she is a farm manager and likes nothing better than working with cows and hanging out with her golden Labrador Nala.
"My absolute favourite thing about farming is hanging out with cows. I'm also quite driven by growing as much grass as I can and producing quality milk. Every milk pickup is as exciting as the last."
Mackle says she is committed to learning everything she can about the dairy sector. She has been studying part-time with industry training organisation Primary ITO since 2012, and is currently studying for her agribusiness diploma.
Mackle started out farming in Southland, where she lived for six years and has been working as a farm manager for a couple of years. She recently moved to a farm just out of Whangarei with 450 cows where she enjoys working closely with the farm owners.
"I love working with good operators and great leaders. I have been fortunate to work for really awesome people," she says. Mentors have made a real difference in her career. "I find people who are already where I want to be and ask them to take me under their wing. I am driven by the people I hang out with and I surround myself with good farmers. I want to be top of my game."
Mackle says the dairy sector has a lot of great business people and leaders who thrive off seeing young people progress. "I recommend beginners in the sector find people who are going in the direction they want to go and ask them to mentor them."
Another strong recommendation from Mackle is taking part in the Dairy Industry Awards. She won trainee of the year for Southland in 2016 and runner-up manager of the year for Southland in 2018.
"Taking part in the awards, you meet a lot of like-minded people in the sector. It puts you out of your comfort zone and you get to learn more about the inside and outside of the business – it helps consolidate your knowledge."
Mackle goes to as many DairyNZ events and discussion groups as she can.
Her plan for the future is to own her own herd in the next few years and one day to own her own farm or farms. She wants to be able to offer beginners in the sector the same opportunities she was offered when she started farming.
"I want to reflect something that's desirable for young people because we need more people in the sector. I'd like to be able to help people and one day to employ people."
Mackle will make sure she keeps setting new challenges for herself. "I enjoy what I do now and I want to still enjoy it in 20 years."