As a kid Khan Underwood enjoyed helping out his dad on the family dairy farm – so much so that he has followed in his father’s footsteps to pursue his own career in dairy farming.
In June this year Khan began a three-year contract as herd owner in a 50/50 sharemilker on a 180-cow dairy farm just out of Matamata. This essentially means that as owner of the cows, Khan is responsible for their production and health, while the other party owns the farm.
It’s a busy job that extends far beyond the twice-daily milkings. There is animal management, calving cows and raising calves to think about. Khan has just finished artificial breeding and currently has bulls in with the cows to get cows in calf. On top of this, there is feed and pasture management and all general farm business and administration to take into account as well.
Prior to his current sharemilking role, Khan worked as a contract milker on a 270-cow farm. Before that, he held a farm managing role on a 900-cow farm.
His dairy farming experience began from a young age and he picked up many of the necessary practical skills as a kid working alongside his father on the farm and relief milking during his school years at Matamata College. After finishing school, Khan went on to complete a Bachelor of Commerce with Agriculture at Lincoln University.
“I picked up skills working on a cropping farm out of Christchurch and the university course involved a work experience requirement over the university holidays.”
The idea of dairy farming has always held a huge appeal for the 27-year-old.
“I like the idea of working from home and being my own boss. It also allows me to spend most of my day outside.”
And while there are no mini Red Band gumboots at their house just yet, Khan and his wife Sarah believe that dairy farming affords the best lifestyle for a family.
Khan values the ability to progress relatively quickly within the dairy farming profession. He has his eyes firmly set on owning his own farm and being his own boss. He credits his past employers as a source of inspiration in this regard.
“They have worked hard and gone through the stages of progression that we are going through now and have achieved the goal of farm ownership,” he says.
Of course, with responsibility and ownership come downsides. The hours, especially through the calving period, are what Khan classifies as one of the “worst bits” of the job. Forces outside his control, such as the weather, market prices and payouts, also make the job unpredictable at times.
These aside, Khan wouldn’t have it any other way. He fiercely values the freedom, the opportunity to work with animals, and the ability to live in the country and work outdoors.