Artificial breeding (AB) technician training, which started in March this year, has resumed after the delay caused by the alert level 4 lockdown, LIC says.
One hundred prospective new trainees have returned to their two-week AB course at training sites in Waikato, Northland, Taranaki, central South Island and Southland within the last month.
Three out of every four cows in New Zealand are sired by LIC bulls, making the role of LIC's AB technicians not only important to individual farmers, but critical to improving and preserving the country's dairy industry.
The training process is an intense two-week course with attendees having to pass the first week before moving on to the second week.
Initially, trainees work on artificial cows to make sure the insemination technique is learnt.
The introduction of artificial cows by LIC in 2015, with silicon parts that have been made to resemble as close as possible the internal reproductive organs of a cow, is an initiative that has lifted the overall AB apprentice technician pass rate in recent years.
If a trainee passes this course, they will become an apprentice for 12 months and will go on to do AB in the spring with a senior technician who will guide and mentor them on the intricate processes on how to manage their own AB run.
During this time, LIC monitor their NRR (non-return rate) and trainees also complete some NZQA papers relative to their work.
If they obtain an acceptable NRR, and complete their papers, they qualify for a NZ Certificate in Artificial Insemination of Livestock, meaning they can become an AB technician for LIC.
The new recruits then become part of a team that inseminated over four million cattle last year, resulting in approximately $300 million genetic gain annually.
Who is a typical AB technician?
The role attracts people from all walks of life who are connected by the same passion for improving New Zealand's dairy industry, LIC's National Artificial Breeding Manager Dave Hale said.
"Most of our trainees have some farming background, but it is not a prerequisite. They do need to show an affinity to animals, passion, resilience, attention to detail, good communication skills (written and oral) and a willingness to succeed".
"The calibre of this year's new trainees is very high with people from across the country and a good split of men and women".
New recruit Lucy Aston, from Taupō, said that she loved her time as an assistant technician last year with her sister, and was looking forward to getting started again this year.
"I've been in the agriculture scene for a while as head shepherd for several years, so I have a real passion for the industry. I love the seasonal nature of the job, and despite it being only for a short time, you get a real sense of just how important this work is from your interaction with farmers."