Dominic Bloxham, 25, farms 250 dairy cows on 129 hectares (320 acres) owned land and 24ha (60 acres) rented land on the family dairy farm in Bednall, South Staffordshire. The farm also sells milk to Wells Farm Dairy and grows 4ha (10 acres) of pumpkins every year.
Dairy: On the home farm I am in charge of herd health and management work on the dairy farm, doing everything from vaccinations to fertility and artificial insemination.
I am currently interested in using cross-breeding to improve herd genetics and longevity of cows.
Opportunity: Last year I completed a C. Alma Baker scholarship.
As part of the programme I travelled to Limestone Downs, a 3,237-hectare (8,000-acre) dairy, beef and sheep farm, located 15km south of the remote Port Waikato in New Zealand’s North Island.
I arrived at the farm in April, at the end of their summer, but to warm sunshine, to begin work with the 15,000-head of sheep and lambs and 900 milking cows.
I was keen to get involved with the dairy as much as possible, coming from a Staffordshire dairy farming background, as I knew milking cows would soon be dried off.
Drying off 60, 80 and 100 cows at a time was very different to drying off much smaller numbers each week on the all-year-round calving herd of 250 cows I am used to.
In fact, all cattle work – vaccinations, DNA testing, turning out, for example – was on a much greater scale than I was used to. I had expected this and I enjoyed the challenge.
Sheep: As work on the dairy side slowed down, I moved to work with the shepherds and away from the ‘dark side’, as they called it.
The scale of the operation was just as immense and I had no previous sheep farming experience. Looking across at a sea of sheep as far as I could see was overwhelming, but I was excited by the prospect.
Weighing and drafting lambs, dipping, drenching, condition scoring and crutching were some of the jobs I soon became familiar with.
Sorting sheep before and after sheering for a gang of Maori shearers and loading wool bales afterwards was memorable.
It was fascinating to watch shearers work seriously hard to get 6,000 ewes sheared by the end of the week before they headed to the next farm.
Dogs: The farm is situated in a magnificent and remote landscape, comprising of rolling hills, valleys, cliffs and coastline, only accessible by quad bike or sometimes only by foot.
One of the most amazing aspects was watching shepherds work their dogs on-farm, an important and integral part of their system which was inspiring to watch.
I am grateful to the farm workers and residents for being so welcoming and including me in their weekend activities, from wild boar hunting to the opening of the duck shooting season and always having a beer on hand after a day’s work.