UK student chooses work experience here

English agriculture student Libby Eglington has been working on a North Otago farm. Photo by Sally Rae.
English agriculture student Libby Eglington has been working on a North Otago farm. Photo by Sally Rae.
When it comes to acquiring a posting for your first-year United Kingdom agricultural course, you could not go much further than Libby Eglington has.

Miss Eglington (20) has been on a six-week placement with North Otago farmers Blair and Jane Smith, winners of the 2012 national Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

It has been a different experience to her home farm, a 400ha arable property in Norfolk, East Anglia, which grows rape, barley, wheat and occasionally beans.

When she was very young, her family had dairy cattle and also pigs: it was her great-grandfather who introduced the large white breed to the country.

It was also very different from what her fellow agricultural college students were experiencing - those who were interested in livestock were outside ''in the cold'' during lambing, she laughed.

''It's just been so varied. That's been so good,'' she said with enthusiasm.

Despite her family not having any, she had a passion for sheep, along with orang-utans, which she also hoped to work with one day.

Miss Eglington has a New Zealand boyfriend whom she met about three years ago and who lives on a dairy farm at Ngapara.

She came to New Zealand in December 2010 for a four-month working holiday, doing some work on the dairy farm and also for a nearby sheep farmer.

She was keen to return to New Zealand for the placement.

Mr and Mrs Smith have Newhaven Farms, a sheep, beef, forestry and dairy support operation that runs 9500 stock units.

Miss Eglington reckoned she came at a good time as there were so many different tasks to be done and she had worked with both cattle and sheep.

As well as on-farm work, she had also seen CT scanning of sheep at Lincoln University, been to a local farm discussion group and was looking forward to touring the nearby freezing works.

''It's good to see the start and end ... the whole journey. It'll kind of finish the cycle,'' she said.

Sheep farming in the UK was very different from in New Zealand, with a much more intensive operation and the ''mollycoddling aspect''.

She preferred the New Zealand way.

But farmers in both countries faced similar issues, including growing environmental pressures, although the division between urban and rural was much greater in the UK, she said.

The area where she came from was ''flat as'' and a far cry from the North Otago hill country. When she returned home, Miss Eglington had another five weeks at college before starting a four-month summer placement.

She was not sure what she wanted to do in the future, but she still wanted to do ''lots more'' work experience and to work on a station in Australia.

New Zealand had been a good middle step before working in the expanse of Australia. She said her family did at one time have an interest in a cropping farm in Australia.

She saw the importance of having practical experience, rather than just a ''piece of paper''. Her college put a great deal of emphasis on turning out students with a broad range of different skills.

As part of her course, she did business classes, learnt about plant and soil sciences, worked on the college's 80-cow dairy farm, worked with pigs and poultry, and learnt practical skills such as welding, bricklaying and fencing.