It took a while, but Jackson Bertanees (Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki) has gotten used to the long hours and the early morning starts that dairy farming demands.
Two days a week Jackson is up and out of bed at 2am. At 3am he’s in the milking shed where he’ll spend four hours milking 1150 cows. Then he heads for breakfast before returning to the farm to spend a couple of hours doing tasks before heading home for a rest and some downtime.
About 1pm it starts again with the same 1150 cows making their way back in to the 64-stall rotary shed on Ngāi Tahu Farming’s second dairy farm. The herd will have produced less milk in the hours since their morning milk so this time around Jackson will usually spend about three hours in the shed attaching the cups that drain up to 25,000 litres of milk a day from the mainly Friesian and crossbreed herd.
Jackson is 18 years old and has been working on the farm for a year since being selected to join Whenua Kura, a Ngāi Tahu initiative to create pathways for Māori to enter the rural workforce. He is working towards a qualification in farm management which he could complete in four years. Much of what he learns is through the experience he gets on the job, passed on by farm manager Dave Hunter and his partner Lynda Townshend. But he also regularly attends block courses run by Primary ITO where he is learning the ins and outs of farming technology, animal health and husbandry, and pasture management.
Jackson is the second of eight siblings and grew up with his mother Shae Bertanees in Dunedin where he attended Kaikorai Valley College. Many of his holidays were spent in Edendale on a small dairy farm with his father Russell Fowler. It was here that his interest in farming began.
Jackson feels pretty proud that he’s on a pathway to a career in dairy farming, and even more so that he is being supported by his iwi and is working for his people.