Jamie Mackay runs The Country...on the radio.

Jamie Mackay's 'From the Lip': Farming jobs I've hated

They may look cute but cleaning up after them is no picnic says Jamie Mackay. Photo / Michael Craig
They may look cute but cleaning up after them is no picnic says Jamie Mackay. Photo / Michael Craig

We all have parts of our jobs we don't particularly like. Farmers more than most probably, especially when Mother Nature throws them a curve ball, as she has done with abundant bitchiness of late.

My particular bugbear is travel. Ever since I was a kid suffering chronic car sickness I've been a terrible traveller. I write this column at Auckland airport from where my flight to Christchurch has been delayed by more than two hours because the aforementioned Madam Nature has thrown a real hissy and a spanner in Air New Zealand's works.

Now I know a lot of you will be thinking what the hell is he moaning about? And you'd be dead right. Sitting around in airports beats the heck out of any number of tasks farmers endure on a daily basis, especially when the weather sucks.

My particular touch point to make me pull my head in when I'm moping around airport lounges is to remember back to the jobs I disliked, make that hated, when I was a farmer.

It's a great, give-yourself-a-good-slapping, reality check.

Top of the list for me was shovelling sheep shite from beneath the woolshed grating. Back bent all day, with a chilly wind up your backside exacerbating the discomfort, whether it was on the shovel or the wheelbarrow.

I had a particular dislike for winter crutching muddy ewes and for some reason I detested vaccinating sheep vehemently. I also had no tolerance nor aptitude for machinery breakdowns and even though lambing in a Southland snow storm is as bad as it gets, it was amazing what the adrenaline rush of saving livestock can do for a shepherd.

But back to the present. I've been in Auckland for two days for the NZME Rural Accelerator Series, which is just a fancy title for wining, dining and schmoozing important clients and showing them all the whizz-bang new advertising technology that's available in radio, print, digital, social media, experiential and events. Even old dogs need to learn new tricks so it was very much a learning process for me as well.

However, the most interesting part of my two day sojourn in the City of Sails was a guided tour of Fonterra's swanky new headquarters in the Wynyard Quarter near the Auckland waterfront.

I was most impressed by this behemoth building where I'm reliably informed Fonterra, in the interests of frugality and efficiency, battery farms its workers with its open-plan, hot-desk layout. The norm for office workers is apparently 12 square metres per person. Fonterra has managed to reduce that to eight square metres!

I take back everything I ever said to chairman John Wilson about this being a grandiose monument planned by management during an $8-40 payout year but paid for by shareholders in a $3.90 season!

The most fascinating aspect for me as a member of the media was going to the bunker room where Fonterra monitors media and social media posts from all around the world.

When collated this makes up a happiness meter for how our biggest exporter is perceived domestically and internationally (Note to self. No more pointed comments about how much Theo is paid or I'll end up on Fonterra's naughty boy board for dissident commentators).

Next port of call on my northern mini-tour is the ASB Rural Corporate Conference in Christchurch. For me these events are part professional development, part great radio interview fodder, part client liaison and part charity fundraiser.

The professional development comes from listening to some of the motivational speakers on offer such as business entrepreneur and former Telecom chief executive Theresa Gattung, the NZ Merino Company's CEO John Brackenridge, Fonterra's Jacqueline Chow, KPMG's Head of Agribusiness Ian Proudfoot and All Blacks' high performance manager Don Tricker.

Then it's back to Dunedin to MC a school charity fundraiser featuring Sir Brian Lochore on Friday evening, followed by hosting the 20 year reunion of our old Southland rugby commentary "Scream Team" at the Highlanders v Blues game at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night. If I survive this week I'm really going to enjoy the sanctuary and solitude of Sunday.

So yeah, when I think about it and give myself a good slapping, travel ain't so bad after all. It sure as hell beats shovelling sheep shite and Mother Nature's latest offerings.

- The Country

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Jamie Mackay runs The Country...on the radio.

Jamie Mackay runs The Country. Well actually his former Southland sheep-farming mate Bill English does that but Jamie's apolitical so we won't mention it. Mackay is a rural legend in broadcasting with over 20 years' experience. Jamie enjoys the finer things in life such as a quenching pint of Emerson’s pilsner, a leisurely Friday afternoon game of golf, and mercilessly teasing Dom George about everything from his appearance to his social standing.

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