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Ag career gives new territory manager sense of purpose

Kaitlin Bates’ love of the land goes back to childhood. Graincorp Feeds’new Territory Manager for Northwest Waikato grew up on a farm in Tokoroa and surprised no one when she majored in biological science at Massey University. In spite of what seems a predictable path to a career in agriculture, Kaitlin recalls a time when she thought about becoming a teacher.

“What I wanted in a job was a sense of purpose, something that got me out bed in the morning to go make a difference. For a short spell, I seriously considered training to become a teacher, and I think I would have made a good one. But in the end, farming is in the blood; it’s what I know and love.

From the broad study of biological science, Kaitlin narrowed her focus to animal nutrition. Not only was it an area that fascinated her and she could see it as a clear way of adding value to people’s lives.

“I’ve always wanted to contribute, to help people thrive. There was something about animal nutrition… I felt that I could do good things in that space.

“My first experience of that world was with PGG Wrightson. It was an entry level job, but I brought in a good understanding of animals and the farming way of life: I’d been milking cows and mowing silage since I was young.

“Having said that, I learned so much from their technical reps. Laura Pattie was especially helpful, and inspiring. She’d been farm veterinarian for 10 years before becoming their animal health nutritionist. I learned a tonne from Laura about animal health and feed programming!”

After her time down South, Kaitlin headed North to work with the GrainCorp Feeds team. It was an opportunity to apply her knowledge and on-farm training closer to home.

“Working with GrainCorp ticked a couple of big boxes for me. I missed going fishing with Dad, so being back up North brought me nearer to him again, which is great. Being a territory manager also put me in the thick of animal nutrition, which is where I can help farmers most.

“Practical knowledge and an understanding of the science of animal nutrition are important, but I never go onto a farm and start talking with the intention of selling feed.

“My first job is to ask questions. I want to hear what’s already working well for the farmer, what they are trying to achieve and what they’re focusing on. I’ll ask them what grass and crops they’re growing, and what’s going into the diet of the animals. I want to know how they run their farm because no two farms are the same.

“Only after I’ve listened can I know where GrainCorp can help. Maybe I can see more efficient ways of doing something, or savings that can be made. Sometimes I can spot a nutrient deficiency that will bite into profits, or I’ll see how animals could be more productive if they had an increase in specific minerals and supplements.  

“The great thing about working at GrainCorp is that I don’t have to have all the answers. There’s a whole team of brilliant people behind me. If I’m asked a feed question and I’m not 100% sure about the best approach, I’ll take the farmer’s issue back to the Graincorp team. One of our nutritionists or number-crunching technicians will be able to drill down into the finer details.

“Or maybe pasture testing needs to be done to uncover the deeper issues. We have all the resources to find the right solution. And that’s what I like about this team. No one is a car salesman, chasing farmers to sell feed. People just want to make life easier and profitable for farmers.”

When Kaitlin isn’t on-farm in the GrainCorp colours, or out fishing with her Dad, she’s probably training. She started the year playing rugby league in the national competition. She now plays fullback for the Putaruru Women’s rugby union team. As with work, good culture is everything to Kaitlin.

“We have the right vibe at Putaruru. We train hard and play hard, and we’re there for each other. I like that in a team.”

Kaitlin Bates;Graincorp Feeds