What does the Australian cow say?

2013-11-28 00:00

WHEN Sipamandla Ngcobo (24) was planning for his trip to Australia to get some farming experience, he did not worry as he thought to himself — a cow is a cow.

The young farmer, who is part of the Future Farmers programme, recently returned after spending a year getting work experience at an Australian dairy farm. He says the experience was life changing.

The trip was organised by Future Farmers, an organisation run by Judy Stuart, a local farmer who is passionate about advancing young farmers who have the passion to be farmers but no means to do so. Part of the programme involves giving the young farmers practical experience on farms, and after they have gained skills and experience, they can go overseas to experience the workings of an international farm.

When they return, they mentor the junior members who are on the programme and they are offered jobs locally as managers. Ngcobo is one of the students who has gone overseas and who has had a fantastic time learning new skills, experiencing a different culture and learning about the wider world.

He said: “I was on a farm in South Australia in the Mount Gamblier area and I stayed there for a year. I was on a dairy farm and I learnt a lot while I was there. The farmer was very keen on giving us courses on various topics, so we learnt on the job. The farm had a very small staff, so they used contractors for some jobs.

“We learnt about feeding the cows, nutrition, calf rearing, hoof trimming and milking. We had an all-round experience as there were so few hands to do a lot of work.

“I learnt that in Australia you have the advantage of modern technology as the farms are very mechanised there, but the farmer taught me that you also have to be very organised and think ahead.

“So you have to make sure that you use your time efficiently. I discovered that sometimes if you are organised, the tasks become easier.”

For Ngcobo, the trip overseas was his first and it was also his first trip in an aeroplane. He enjoyed the experience and was only slightly worried about the safety.

“I am more at home on a tractor than in an aeroplane, but it was nice to see the sky.”

He also felt a bit nervous about his new surroundings when he first arrived on the farm, but after five weeks he started to venture out and explore the area.

“People were very friendly and nice. They battled to pronounce my name so they called me Spam, which is a type of food and it was a joke. But they were not nasty.”

Ngcobo also had the opportunity of visiting the Tasmania Dairy Expo, which showed the different farming methods that are used in Australia and Tasmania. He also went to a dairy factory and saw how cheese is made, and how long-life milk is manufactured. “The whole experience was very interesting. I learnt that I can adapt to another culture. I had to use English every day. I managed and I developed confidence, and could communicate comfortably with people.”

Ngcobo also had to try his hand at cooking, and has mastered the art of making sausage rolls and can make a mean lasagne. His dream is one day to open a co-operative farm with some of the other Future Farmers graduates, and so contribute to the community.

• To learn more about the Future Farmers project, go to www.futurefarmersfoundation.com or contact Judy Stuart at redcow@telkomsa.net

• Trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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