Two young guns to represent NZ sheep industry

Tumoana Harrison-Boyd and Kurt Portas have been selected by B+LNZ to represent the New Zealand sheep industry at this year's Tri-Lamb Young Leaders' Forum.
Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The forum is being held in Australia and New Zealand later this month and brings together representatives from the US, Australian and New Zealand sheep industries.

Lincoln University student wins lamb industry leadership role

Tumoana Harrison-Boyd is a town boy who developed a love of farming and the outdoors through hunting and helping farming friends around his home town of Gisborne.

That hands-on farming experience during his teenage years proved formative, and upon leaving school Tumoana set his sights on a career in the sheep and beef industry.

Now studying a Diploma in Agriculture at Lincoln University, Tumoana sees the Young Leader programme as an opportunity to grow his networks and gain a broader understanding of how lamb is produced and marketed overseas.

A love of day-to-day farming

Before starting Lincoln University on a Whenua Kura scholarship, Tumoana graduated from Smedley Station Training Farm and admits his real love lies in the physical side of farming: the mustering, the shearing and the hands-on work.

“I just like being out on the land.”

At Lincoln University, he finds the management papers the most enjoyable because they are the most relevant for day-to-day farming. These include putting together feed budgets and cashflows, all of which will be necessary skills as he pursues his farm management dreams.

Plans, goals, ideas...

After completing his Diploma, Tumoana intends spending more time in the South Island gaining shepherding experience. Ultimately he would like to return to Gisborne where he sees managerial opportunities in Māori incorporated sheep farms.

From a marketing viewpoint, he is very aware of the vagaries of global trade – particularly in light of Chinese threats to sheep meat imports as questions are asked about the dumping of Chinese steel onto the New Zealand market.

In the long term, Tumoana does see opportunities for sheep meat produced on Māori farms to be differentiated in the market.

“There may be other cultures and people interested in buying lamb produced under tikanga Māori traditions.”

Wairarapa farm manager wins sheep industry leadership role

Kurt Portas’s career trajectory proves the adage that attitude is everything.

At just 23, the former shepherd was offered the manager’s position on Palliser Ridge – a well-known 1300ha, 12,000 stock unit property in the South Wairarapa – simply because the owners liked his attitude.

Being offered the opportunity to operate a $10m asset and a team of staff at such a young age was nerve-wracking, but Kurt felt it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Six years later Kurt has a family, equity in the business, and is just as enthusiastic about the farm – and the sheep and beef industry – as when he first started.

A vision of collaboration

Kurt is acutely aware of the challenges facing the sheep industry, but believes there are opportunities for farmers to work together more.

Unlike dairy farmers, whose focus is on production rather than price, sheep farmers have a tendency to try to get the best price on the day for themselves, rather than considering everyone else along the value chain.

Ideally he would like to see a formula produced for store stock that would ensure breeders and finishers share equally in the value of that lamb – so everyone gets a fair deal.

“We should be working together – not against each other.”

He acknowledges the red meat industry is a tough one and he doesn’t believe anyone is making a big margin – but he feels there is opportunity to extract more value by working collaboratively, making better use of traceability and telling the NZ farming story.

Telling our story

Kurt has first-hand experience of the value of the story through Palliser Ridge’s relationship with the Greytown butcher.

As the sole providers of lamb to this boutique butchery, Palliser Ridge has been able to tell their story of where and how their lamb is produced.

Learning and leadership

It is just these sorts of issues that Kurt is looking forward to discussing at the Tri-Lamb Young Leaders' Forum.

He sees the forum as a great opportunity for learning, networking and developing his leadership skills.

While his focus is on Palliser Ridge, he doesn’t discount the possibility of putting himself forward for industry leadership roles in the future – particularly in the areas of training young people in the sheep and beef industry and encouraging sheep farmers to work collaboratively.

The value of mentors

Kurt grew up on a lifestyle block but spent school holidays working on neighbouring sheep and beef farms. He completed a cadetship at Smedley Station. followed by two years shepherding in Southland.

Keen to work up the industry ladder, Kurt – then just 22 – put himself forward for a stock manager’s role at Palliser Ridge. The recruitment agency admitted he was a 'wild card' candidate for such a big job – but their faith in him was justified as within a year he was offered the manager’s job.

Now Kurt is just as enthusiastic about training young people – and Palliser Ridge takes on Taratahi students every year. He himself benefited from having mentors to help him through those early years in the managerial role. He admits it was, at times, stressful – so having someone to talk to at night and bounce ideas off was very valuable.

Kurt sees his future on Palliser Ridge: it is now home to his young family and sheep farming is a lifestyle, business and industry that he remains passionate about.

About the forum

The Tri-Lamb Young Leaders' Forum is run by the Tri-Lamb Group, a collaborative initiative between lamb-producer organisations from the United States, Australia and New Zealand (where it is represented by Beef + Lamb New Zealand). The Group aims to enhance the profitability and sustainability of the lamb market in the United States for the three supplying countries. It is also an important vehicle through which the three countries are able to maintain and foster strong producer relationships.