'Great place for continuous learning'

Shannon Morton likes the variety in her role as a pasture systems agronomist for Barenbrug...
Shannon Morton likes the variety in her role as a pasture systems agronomist for Barenbrug Agriseeds in Otago and Southland. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Southern Rural Life is running a series of columns about the various jobs available in the agriculture and horticulture sector. This week we talk to an agronomist.

Q Name and background?

Shannon Morton, (24)

I grew up on an arable property with some sheep and beef in South Otago.

I went to Lincoln University and obtained an agricultural science degree while on the Future Leaders Scholarship.

Q Job description?

I now work for Barenbrug Agriseeds as a pasture systems agronomist in the Otago and Southland region.

Q How long have you been in the position?

I have been with Barenbrug Agriseeds for three years, including two years in the graduate programme and one year as a pasture systems agronomist.

Q What does the job involve?

I carry out a range of tasks, which make every day interesting.

I do research trial work with a farm systems focus, and also work closely with the sales team, as well as contributing to extension work through communicating technical information from a range of pastoral, agronomy and other related agricultural topics.

Things are always changing on farm around social, environmental and economic targets, so we look at ways to assist farmers to meet them through increased and different uses of pasture and forages.

I work directly with farmers, retailers, industry organisations such as Beef + Lamb and DairyNZ to try new things and get messages across.

Q What qualifications, experience and knowledge are required?

An agricultural-related qualification is needed, as well as having experience from working within the primary industry, being willing to learn and being a team player.

Q Why do you like the job and what have been the highlights?

Not every day is the same, from analysing data to talking to farmers, and every season brings new challenges.

It is a great place for continuous learning and improving not only your own knowledge but passing it on to others.

My highlight is teaching people within the agricultural industry and getting the sense of achievement when they understand an idea and carry on that knowledge to others.

Q Are there any drawbacks or challenges?

The environment can bring many challenges, with the weather interrupting plans when organising practical work to be done on trials.

The Winton demonstration site is a great example as there are many different species sown within this area.

All have different growth speeds and palatability differences that makes grazing all at the right time to an even residual challenging at times.

Q Is it hard to attract young people into this type of job and if so how could that be addressed?

Yes, it can be hard because of the level of experience needed, and one way to get into this type of work is through joining a graduate programme with a company that aligns with your values.

This is where it started for me, joining the Barenbrug Agriseeds graduate programme.

I learned all parts of the business and extended my knowledge at a greater level than other avenues.

Q What advice would you give to a school pupil considering entering the industry for a similar job?

Take opportunities that come your way.

If you find an interest in an area of agriculture, be proactive and ask a rural professional in that area of work to go out for the day as work experience.

This gives you a chance to understand what the job entails, and also gives you an opportunity to ask questions.

Work experience is valuable at the beginning of a career.

Q What is a little-known fact about the job that you would like to share?

People are always interested in the facts we capture and share, e.g. lifting the pasture clover content from 25% to 50% will significantly increase milk production per cow.

For sheep systems every increase of 1 MJME/ha of feed for lambs, increases their performance by 100g/day.

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