By Tom Collins
Stepping off a plane after landing in New Zealand, an Ontario farmer went through a bit of an agricultural culture shock when she saw most dairy farms don’t have barns. Even the chickens are outside.
Caitlin Harvey, of Cookstown, north of Toronto, went on a six-month exchange to a New Zealand mixed crop, reindeer and sheep farm. The biggest change for her was that New Zealand farmers don’t use barns or shelters for livestock because they don’t have predators, she said. Sheep are pastured 24 hours a day and dairy cows are milked in sheds. Only 700 of 12,000 dairy farms house the cows in a barn.
“I learned more about animal behaviour and how to handle livestock, how they bring their sheep into the yards and vaccinate and ear tag, which is more efficient than what we do,” she said.
International Rural Exchange administrator Anita Warriner said New Zealand and Australia are popular exchange choices as their farming season allows farmers to go there for planting and harvest and then come back to Canada in time for our growing season. She said the program is always looking for new students. Other destinations include farms in Europe and in the United States.
Two or three Ontario farmers and 20 from across Canada are sent on exchanges each year.
Exchange students —between 18 to 30 years old — pay the airfare, Visa fee and admin fees, ranging from $2,000 to $3,000. Students are paid at least minimum wage by the host farmer.
For more information, visit www.irecanada.ca.