Martín Rostagno, an Argentine who has been working in New Zealand’s dairy units and now travels to Tasmania, Australia
He made a post on Facebook, and in two days, he had 30 job offers: “It was crazy,” he describes
Martín Rostagno spent two years and ten months in New Zealand, making his own great path in dairy, and for a few weeks, he is back in Argentina to prepare for a new challenge because Australia awaits him.
Martin Rostagno and his dairy experiences
Rostagno is an agronomist engineer from the Cordoba city of San Francisco, received a degree from the National University of Litoral and managed to become a specialist in dairy farm management in the most competitive country on the planet in this area.
According to him, when he left, he knew the basics of the dairy issue, but in almost three years, he is already a benchmark that goes far beyond the Hola Tambo Instagram account.
It started in Wanaka, in the middle part of the South Island, continued down to Dunedin, made another stop at Ashburton in the Canterbury region, which is the dairy basin centre of the same Island, and later on his fourth farm, he settled for 17 months, in the south of the North Island, in the Wairarapa region, one hour from Wellington.
Dairy units have the same purpose everywhere, but Argentina’s main competitors clearly have a system that we can only perceive through those who experience it directly. In New Zealand, there is a kind of career within dairy farms where this scale allows progress, measures individual results and ultimately sets clear goals personally and professionally, but also productively.
“There are hierarchies at work, starting with the farm assistant, who is the one who does the milking. Then comes the rodeo manager, who is in charge of checking the animals. In the last dairy farm, I entered as assistant manager, with the responsibility of directing the work team; soon after, I became a manager to do all the planning, the assembly of diets and all the administrative part, ”explains Rostagno.
Martín takes these weeks in Argentina’s central dairy basin as an opportunity to tour dairy farms, visit friends, and see more closely the area where he grew up. For now, the decision to stay in Oceania, but move to Australia, is related to the search for new challenges.
“When I went to New Zealand, I planned to stay there for just one year and then go to other countries. The cultural exchange opens your mind a lot, they change your thinking. That is why he had a whole circuit to visit Israel, Ireland, Japan and Canada.
“I was learning a lot in New Zealand, and if I continued one more season, I was going to go to a step that is ‘contract milker’ which is a way of associating myself because they pay a fixed price per kilo of solids produced between 1.10 and 1.40 New Zealand dollars to hire personnel, and machinery, pay taxes and services, and I was not going to leave anymore, and that is why it was a completed stage because then comes the stage of buying animals, and they are terms of three years, so I decided that it was a completed stage”.
The following professional stage awaits him in Australia, on the island of Tasmania, based on a job offer he found on Facebook, even in the middle of a process that he had already started looking for work in Canada.
“I made a post explaining who I was, that I had experience handling animals and pasture, and if anyone needed a manager or assistant manager to call me. In two days, I had 30 job offers, crazy”. Thus, due to the number of cows and the milking system, he began to discard the proposals for which he was learning and, above all, look at the location of each dairy farm: “I think a lot about the balance between leisure, work, rest, that’s why I wanted to be not far from the cities. I was looking for another salary, and with the ten that I stayed, I had interviews to understand what they offered me, if it was salary and accommodation or just salary, bonuses, days off”, says Rostagno.
Martín still does not know the place where he is going to work. Still, he warns: “I think I chose the best option because one of the reasons is that there are already other Argentines working there for three years. We speak the same language because of what we look for when we go abroad, not because of Spanish; and the workers told me that it was a great opportunity because the owner of the dairy farm has an award as an employer of the year in 2021 and we agree on many things with him”.
In a place closely linked to nature, with a population of just over half a million people, he will be in charge of three dairy farms in the same company, one with a thousand cows, another with two thousand and another with four thousand. “I’m going to start with the youngest to go on to the others, and if over time I’m still in Tasmania and enthusiastic, the intention is to remain as manager of the three, with the possibility of buying cows.”
The path to being a dairy farmer
When Martín went to try his luck, he did not have a dairy background, but this is an example that shows that fate has surprises for everyone.
“When you leave college, you know a little about everything, so I knew that I would specialize in dairy, nutrition, precision agriculture, and agribusiness, which is why I was going to visit several countries. But once I entered the dairy, I realized that it is so wide and beautiful that I will not have enough time to cover everything”.
The dairy has a hook that only those inside understand. “I love it, especially because of our challenge to produce food. We agronomists and everyone related to agricultural production have the challenge of producing food, which motivates me to choose dairy production”.
From afar, things can look very different.
“The impression that I got from New Zealand, I may be wrong or not, is that we have nothing to envy from them in terms of knowledge because what I received from the university was vastly superior to what I have seen in New Zealand. Our strong work ethic makes us more efficient because perhaps a task that can be done in two hours, we do it in 40 minutes because we always want more, we have an ambition that makes us progress faster”. New Zealand’s worker productivity seems very low.
Evaluating themselves in some way, “ I looked at things holistically, which is something they don’t do. We can see small losses that they have in a dairy unit and that they do not see because they never had the needs that we have, as they do not lack anything,” the reference included examples in the performance of employees, fuel, the use of water, all items that contribute to the sustainability of companies.
That spirit of survival allows us to move on, which is why “we can be superior farmers, but we are not as organised as many of them. When I showed the photos of the trucks here stuck in the country roads through the mud on a rainy day, They couldn’t believe it because, for them, the infrastructure is something basic, which is not in dispute because even in the most remote places, there are paved roads. The living conditions in the New Zealand countryside are excellent, like wages, breaks, vacations”.
The disadvantage on the other side of the planet is that “the poorer soils do not allow for as many supplements or crops. Therefore they have to import many inputs that are around between 600 and 700 dollars per tonne, which are things that we do not have to do here.”
Rostagno understands that things work better in New Zealand because “they are better organized because they manage all the producers through cooperatives, services, fuel, inputs, work clothes, like Fonterra, their largest cooperative.”
In addition, “the production numbers are transparent, anyone can see the profits of any producer and that allows comparison, to improve for the benefit of all. I don’t know if they are smarter, but they have more common sense.” Some policies promote production that follows the needs of one of the most fundamental sectors of the economy, quite the opposite of what happens on this side of the world.
The stagnant debates in Argentina weaken strengths and delay progress that should already have been mature.
“Luckily, the issue of effluents is only now being dealt with in Argentina, for example, while in New Zealand, it is something that has been regulated for many years, and nobody disputes it because everything is regulated and those who work badly pay fines and there are no exceptions. You have to see the situation of the Argentine dairy farm inside and outside, so it depends on the producer. Still, on the other hand, because of the infrastructure, the payment for quality is only discussed here and for a long time but not implemented. While here we continue waiting for things to be done, the world advances, and we remain more behind”.
Martín has a fascinating look at the activity, beyond his own experience, with a very particular awareness of animal welfare, calf rearing, and even the innovations that can be applied with the technology available for dairy farms or that which can be adapted to them. It is remarkable that he thought of adapting the biodigesters available for pig farms to dairy farms. He settled for the first time on a farm that the Alquati family rents in Susana, Santa Fe, where Agrofy News was several times.
The exchange of experiences, the open doors, can ensure that the activity does not contract but expands in the best way.
The tools, knowledge, and human resources are there with great capacity. The key is organising ourselves and taking advantage of the conditions that favour us, such as the soil and the climate, despite the lack of financing and political decisions for our sector.
Source: News Agrofy
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