It’s a hot day and Dannevirke cadet Connor McIntyre takes a break from digging a fence post hole in the dry soil.
The 17-year-old looks up and glances beyond the Pukemiro Station woolshed to the bush-clad Ruahine Ranges in the distance.
Pukemiro Station has been Connor’s home since January, when he started a coveted two-year cadetship.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity which will teach me the skills I need to be a successful, sought-after shepherd,” he said.
Connor is one of three in the 2019 intake at Pukemiro. Up to 50 people applied for the highly-regarded cadetships.
Cadets are given practical on-farm training in all day to day operations of the sheep and beef property.
They develop skills and gain qualifications in animal husbandry, stockmanship, fencing, feed management and budgeting, and farm technology.
“Pukemiro’s small annual cadet intake was a big drawcard for me,” said Connor.
“It gives us more one on one time with tutors, which will hopefully mean we develop our skills to a higher standard.”
“I’ve been doing quite a bit of fencing – digging post holes, learning how to square them up and improving my wire knots,” he said.
Connor didn’t have far to travel to take up the cadetship.
His parents have a 688 hectare sheep and beef farm at Weber. They run a small Charolais cattle stud as part of the operation.
Connor was a boarder at Napier Boys’ High School. Last year he was chair of the school’s thriving TeenAg club.
He credits belonging to TeenAg with helping him secure his cadetship.
“It showed I could work well as part of a team. Team work is a massive part of Pukemiro because you’re always working with someone else,” he said.
“I also had good references from school and places where I’d done work experience.”
Applications for the 2020/2021 intake open in June, and open days are held on the property on June 8th-9th.
“My advice to people considering a cadetship would be to attend the open days, even if you don’t plan on applying this year,” he said.
“Develop your curriculum vitae (CV) and do work experience to show you’re keen and have a good work ethic.”
Pukemiro Station offers a nurturing environment, with the young cadets all living together on the property.
“I came from a hostel where there were 40-odd boys in my year, so having just six people is quite quiet,” he laughed.
“We’re a bit different to a couple of the other stations offering cadetships; we do our own cooking and cleaning.”
“We buy our groceries, which teaches us to budget and plan healthy meals. It means we don’t spend as much on takeaways,” he said.
Cadets are on a roster where they cook smoko, lunches and dinners for a week.
“The best thing I’ve cooked is probably bacon and egg pie,” he laughed, when asked about his specialty dish.
Connor is a member of Dannevirke Young Farmers.
He was part of the team who helped set up Pukemiro Station to host the East Coast FMG Young Farmer of the Year regional final.
Connor has his sights set on competing in the contest one day.
Each cadet receives a young heading pup, which they will begin training later in the year.
The dog will be a vital asset as they muster sheep and cattle off Pukemiro’s hills. They’ll get a full trained huntaway at the start of their second year.
“There’s a lot to learn, but it’s quite exciting when you get amongst it. They’re all key skills you’ll need to know once you’re out on your own,” he said.
Connor hopes to secure a shepherding job once he completes his cadetship, then start working his way up the ranks. His end goal is to lease or buy a farm.
Pukemiro Station is owned by the ADB Williams Trust and has focused on training young agricultural sheep and beef students since 2014, before becoming a cadet training farm last year.