Work-farm balance easy for keen farmer

PGG Wrightson seeds forage agronomist Ethan Butcher is loving his job and being the fourth...
PGG Wrightson seeds forage agronomist Ethan Butcher is loving his job and being the fourth generation of his family to be farming in central Southland. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Southland agronomist Ethan Butcher is taking work home at the weekends.

The PGG Wrightson Seeds forage agronomist has been running trials on his Hedgehope farm. The trials had shown "small tweaks" in crops and rotation could have a big impact on the bottom line, he said.

"My goal was always to go full-time farming, so essentially I needed a job that I was really interested in and passionate about, to build up the finances."

He landed the agronomy role shortly after finishing his Ag Science degree at Lincoln University in 2015.

His family had been farming in Hedgehope for nearly 80 years.

He and his siblings were raised on the family farm by parents Wayne and Sandra.

His grandfather Brian and uncle Alan farm nearby.

He became the fourth generation farming in the area after leasing a block neighbouring his family farm.

From Lincoln, he encouraged his parents to try new things in their farming operation, despite them never being the "first off the block" to try something new.

The leasing of the neighbouring block was a stroke of good timing, he said.

Neighbours Christine and Hamish Leckie had asked his parents if they wanted to take on the 110ha block.

His parents were too busy to accept but asked on his behalf.

He was making his own farming decisions on the block and he talked to clients about the results.

After good results from a clover and plantain mix crop to fatten lambs, his parents followed suit.

This past summer, he trialled a leafy turnip crop, aiming to speed up his farm rotation and move away from having 20-year-old grass paddocks.

"The leafy turnip was a method of regrassing quicker but doing it in a way that was also going to be profitable and fatten a lot more lambs than I had been."

Other farmers had seen the results from the leafy turnip and decided to give it a go.

"I love collecting data, every season I'm collecting data and essentially the next season, I'm trying to better it. I've always got that drive — it's not even a financial incentive. It's just a drive to be better at farming than I was the year before."

He loved farming and would find it hard to walk away from his agronomy job if his parents decided to downsize and gave him an opportunity to pick up more land.

"A lot of people haven't found that one job that they want to do, whereas somehow I've managed it that I've found two jobs that I could happily do for the rest of my life."