If anyone thought shepherding was just about moving sheep, then good luck if you're picking the debate with 2019 Primary Sector Awards Shepherd of the Year Chris Hursthouse.

Ahead of the closing of entries for the 2020 awards tomorrow, and encouraging others to enter, he said the impact had been big for the aspirations he has for his career in farming, possibly towards eventually having a farm of his own.

"I have been incredibly lucky with the roles that I have had in my career to date and really motivational bosses who keep me on track and want me to progress and gain more knowledge and experience," he said.

"The opportunities across the ag sector are vast," he said. "When you initially think of shepherding, you may think it is just about herding sheep, but it is so much more."


He said one of the most enjoyable elements of the job is about being able to provide excellent animal health, following best farm management practices and "producing the high-quality product at the end of the day".

The current object platform for these pursuits is an 800-hectare farm 15 minutes from Hastings.

In the peak season, he looks after 12,000 lambs and a large number of cattle units. His block is a finishing farm, the sheep being on the property usually for a short time in order to receive optimum food and health care and growth opportunities.

Rising daily at 6am, he drives to the farm and starts on daily tasks, which vary week on week and are dependent on the season.

The current priority is making sure all the animals have good quantities of water and food. Then he focuses on required stock movements for the day, using the trusty farm dogs to encourage the sheep to go in the right direction.

Often he is drafting sheep and lambs into the yards for their health checks, weighing, drenching as needed and ensuring each animal is getting the best possible care on farm.

Using some of the "amazing" technology now available to the farming industry, he is able to access all the farm information together in one place to help run a more productive, profitable and sustainable farming operation day to day, season to season.

He's intrigued and says: "I have no idea how they managed their farms in years gone by, we rely on this technology and it helps with the farm productivity tenfold."


He's motivated by the end result achieved for the animal, and said: "I love what I do, seeing an animal respond well to good food and health care is good. You know you have helped grow a high-quality item and I am really proud of that."

He said coping with the harsh reality of farming can sometimes be hard. Situations such as severely adverse weather event can have a devastating impact on the animals and keeping morale up during those times can be tricky.

He recounted an incident where he was working on a large sheep-breeding property in Hawke's Bay. It had rained for two days and it was right in the middle of lambing season, there was nothing he or the farm team could do other that to wait and hope for the best.

At the end of the rain, his job was to focus on the live lambs and make sure they had the best start to life.

Now 23, he grew-up on a "small lifestyle block", with pet pigs and chickens, and a growing interest in farming, but he is concerned that not enough young people are entering the sector, an observation he makes from trying to encourage others into both the industry, and to enter the awards.

"But if you are prepared to listen and work hard you are going to go a long way," he said.


The Primary Sector awards are headed by the Silver Fern Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year Award, now in its 48th year, and a range of other awards.