Students explore agriculture in New Zealand

Thirty-one students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences had the experience of a lifetime this summer as they explored the many aspects of agriculture and areas of New Zealand as part of a study abroad program July 27-Aug. 9, 2017.

The New Zealand Agriculture and Animal Production study abroad program, led by Department of Animal Science faculty member, Dr. Shawn Ramsey, professor, offered students a complete educational experience including tours of notable cities and landmarks, the scenic countryside and coastlines, a taste of local cuisine, visits with leaders from agricultural associations, and in-depth tours to numerous farms and agricultural centers.

The main focus of the st

udy abroad program explored the regions’ livestock industry including beef, dairy, horse and grain production systems. Highlights included:

July 27: Arrive in Auckland, New Zealand. 

July 28: Traveled to the province of Waikato, sometimes called “the milk bowl of New Zealand,” due to its predominance of dairy farms. Students visited a 500 cow dairy farm managed by a leading share-milking couple close to Hamilton. In the afternoon, students visited a kiwi fruit orchard followed by a tour of the Hamilton Gardens, featuring themed zones representing important international garden styles.  

July 29: Traveled to Tirau to visit a high-input dairy farm that is integrated with a deer farm. In the afternoon, students visited a sheep and beef farm to gain an understanding of typical North Island pastoral farming. Students also visited Te Puia Whakarewarewa for an introduction to Maori culture, and the thermal area where boiling mud pools and spouting geysers can be seen. 

July 30: The morning started in Rotorua at the Agrodome, an informative show about the sheep and wool industry followed by a trip to Huka Falls. The afternoon concluded with a tour of a sheep farm with a large group-breeding scheme where objective measurement of productive traits is used to produce top sires for commercial flocks.

July 31: The Hawke’s Bay region is well regarded for its wine, as such, the students visited a vineyard in the morning then headed south to the southern part of the Bay for a visit to a leading sheep and beef farm with 3,000 ewes and 400 cows.

August 1: Toured the city of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, en route to Blenheim.

August 2: Students visited a sheep & beef operation in one of the driest regions of New Zealand. In the afternoon, they traveled to the town of Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island. 

August 3: The morning started at Lincoln University, a small land-based university that is the oldest agricultural educational institution in the Southern Hemisphere. Students met with professors before traveling through the Cantebury Plains to visit an irrigated dairy farm. The afternoon was spent visiting a large arable farm in Mid-Cantebury where grain, pulse and small seed crops are grown. 

August 4: Students started the day in Twizel where they visited a small salmon farm followed by a visit to a high country station where Merino sheep are raised for both wool and meat. In the afternoon they toured the Moeraki Boulders en route to Dunedin, renowned for its Scottish heritage. 

August 5: Toured Gore, known for its Romney sheep, trout and country music en route to Te Anau where students had the opportunity to travel across the lake to the glowworm caves.

August 6: The day was spent at Milford Sound amidst the mountain World Heritage grandeur of New Zealand’s Fiodland region. Students were able to take a cruise to see steep mountains plunging into the Fiord, spectacular waterfalls and an abundance of native rainforrest flora, fauna, and marine life. 

August 7: Toured the scenic countryside of Central Otago en route to Queenstown, which included a tour of the historic village of Arrowtown, the site where bungee jumping was born.

August 8: Students were able to enjoy a free day in Queenstown before meeting up for a gondola ride to Bob’s Peak where they were able to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountain and lake.

August 9: Departed New Zealand to return to Aggieland.

The student group included  Barrett Barksdale, Travis Blackwell, Kirby Bohls, Graham Borden, Victoria Burns, Alyssa Denson, Rachel Gibbs, Alex Gonzalez, Channon Hauck, Kathryn Heath, Macey Jonas, Zane Kantor, Lillian Kent, Katelyn King, Hannah Kulak, Marlo Lamb, Hannah Lewis, Mackenzie Lewis, Megan McAndrew, Tyler Monroe, Brock Montgomery, Mackenzie Raesner, Macey Randig, Payton Redfern, Price Ruffin, Lindsey Tarby, Shelby Schiefelbein, Lindsey Brooke Terry, Hayley Walker and Garrett Wehmeyer.

Here are a few first-hand accounts of what the students learned and the benefits of participating in a study abroad trip:

Makenzie Raesner
Senior Animal Science Major

What was your favorite stop and why?

One of my favorite stops would have to have been Lindsay Farm Dairy. This was one of our shorter stops, but was so interesting to learn about how larger of a market New Zealand has for unpasteurized milk. In the US, you cannot find these types of farms as we as Americans are worried about various diseases that we could contract from unpasturized products. In New Zealand, they see it as a health food and something that can make producers a premium. We got to listen to how the farm us operated and then take a look at their bottling process machines. These are on a a small scale but deliver over 4,100 liters of raw milk a week.

What was something that surprised you about New Zealand that you weren’t expecting?

Something that surprised me about New Zealand was the fact that all of their sheep and most of their other agricultural products are marketed as “grass fed.” This is because they constantly have grass growing. This style of farming works because most farmers use rotational farming practices to allow different pastures the chance to develop regrowth. They then are able to market their agriculture products to the Whole Foods Market here in the United States and receive a premium for them.

What did you learn about agriculture in New Zealand?

In addition to what I said above, the farmers and ranchers do not traditionally supplement their livestock with feed, minerals or additives of any sort. This not only means they can market livestock as grass fed, but also as organic and hormone free. As most people know, these markets are becoming premiums here in the US.

Marlo Lamb
Senior Agriculture Science Major

What was your favorite stop and why?

I had a few favorite stops. Queenstown was an obvious favorite because we really were able to experience the town like locals. I went bungee jumping and had an absolute blast! I was able to walk to just walk around the town with my friends and explore instead of hopping back on the bus to drive to another town. I also loved Hawke’s Bay. The beaches were absolutely beautiful and breath taking. My favorite farm we visited was close to Gor at Nithdale Genetics. The family was amazing and their farm was extraordinary. It also helped that we were able to play with the newly born dairy calves as well as get to take a nice hike up the mountain to see some amazing views! The family also invited us into their home and the wife and daughter cooked us a home cooked meal. These people were truly the highlight of our trip.

What was something that surprised you about New Zealand that you weren’t expecting?

Not so much the country itself, but I was surprised at how much the farmers in New Zealand maximize their resources and are not afraid to reuse waste and things for either fertilizers or other products. I was also surprised at how almost all livestock are grass fed with very little supplementation involved. Fortunately for them, New Zealand has the weather conducive to this.

What did you learn about agriculture in New Zealand?

Farmers maximize all of their resources. They are also very technologically advanced, much more than ranchers here in the United States. The farmers there are not afraid to adopt new technology or new ideas as long as it will better their crop. It is quite remarkable.


For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Maggie Tucker at or (979) 845-1542.

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