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10 June 2024
Over the Farm Gate

Focused on showing her own worth

At age 16 Hayley MacDonald left school and decided to learn agriculture the practical way – now she has her dream job.

Hayley MacDonald is one of PGG Wrightson’s newest staff members, coming into the company as a livestock trainee in early May. 

Growing up on a lifestyle property in Ohoka, North Canterbury Hayley developed a passion for livestock.

“We had sheep and beef at home. Dad was off a dairy farm, and he introduced me to that.”

From an early age she knew school was not for her.

“I left school at 16 and went to Arthurs Pass as a barista for a year, then I went dairy farming in Oxford.”

She started as a farm assistant, working with a herd of 800 cows.

“I was thinking about going to Lincoln, then decided rather than learning agriculture the academic way, I’d be better off doing it the practical way. I’m more of a visual and a practical learner.

“On the farm I went up the ladder, learning as much as I could about everything to do with dairy: feed calculations, milk production, health, genetics, and breeding. It broadened my horizons and made me hungry to learn more.”

In terms of her new PGG Wrightson role, Hayley learnt some other important lessons in that job.

“Having worked on dairy farms for four years, I went through the highs and lows and understand how farmers can struggle. What I’m doing now, in livestock, this isn’t just a job where we take farmers’ money, you need that emotional side as well. Working on the farm gave me that grounding in business and emotion. Spending that time in dairy gave me enough experience of both to be able to relate to farmers.”

After four years, mostly on the Oxford farm, though on other farms as well, she went to work for Halter, the company innovating with technological solutions for livestock management, initially based in Christchurch, putting solar powered collars on cows throughout the country.

“There were 14 of us and I was one of five who were leading crews of three to six people around New Zealand, putting the collars on and collecting data. That was a big leadership role. I needed to develop time management and management skills, and learn how to take the initiative.”

Although she found a later stint on Halter’s Morrinsville research and development farm interesting, and a vision for agriculture’s future where she anticipates technology will be much more widely used, from that experience Hayley worked out where her true passion sits: livestock, which led her to PGG Wrightson.

“I was aware of the company, its values, and the teamwork, where everyone gets along. I knew this was a role that would help me to grow, and now I’m here I see plenty of it. I want growth for myself, which is already happening, widening my knowledge. I’m passionate about pasture, animal health and genetics. That’s why I’m here and taking on a career as a livestock rep.”

Hayley reckons being female in a mostly male team is an opportunity.

“Having to think for myself and show initiative is a wakeup call. While I back myself in what I know, it’s also humbling to work around people with so much experience, and I know there are many things I don’t know yet.”

While she acknowledges that livestock has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, Hayley is focused on showing her own worth and is determined to pursue her career goals.

“I’m passionate about this role, and I know it’s a job anyone can do, male or female. You need to put that to the side and get on with the job. I’d like to be able to show more young girls how good a career like this can be,” she says.

And if she’s found herself in her career, even only three weeks into the two-year traineeship, Hayley also reckons she’s already found her favourite place to live. 

“Everyone is so friendly down here. I love Southland. If I can, I’m going to stay here for the rest of my life,” she says.

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