A Hamilton soil and water consultant is questioning the effectiveness of the dairy effluent storage calculator on Waikato farms.
Each school party was allocated to one of ten different groups to circulate around various problem-solving activities. The activities represented a variety of jobs likely to crop up on-farm or in related or consultative areas.
How much are my lambs worth today? Are they the right weight for what the works want? Should I hold off for another week? A trailer full of lambs was judged, condition scored, and the ups and downs of the meat schedules were examined.
My farm has numerous different environments and uses. What should happen in each area? How does effluent drainage work? What do I do with native bush, or wetlands, and what should be in the streams around my farm? Some teams were clued up, others had a lot to discover about caring for farm environments.
Which pasture plants are which, and what do their seeds look like? What sort of fertiliser mixes should be used where, and can you tell one from another? This bit was certainly easier for kids from farms, but the others learned from watching and listening.
Coping with nasties – whether fungal, insect species or weeds and pests – let students discover what products to use on each and what the words on the containers mean.
The complexities of shipping farm produce to other countries, and finding suitable ships sailing at appropriate times, had the maths whizzes leading the charge.
Working out which countries take our meat, and investigating the differences required in packaging was knowledge beyond many students, who needed to read a few more newspapers and farming papers to brush up their knowledge of what brings in a good chunk of New Zealand's export income.
Calculating pasture quality, stock energy requirements and quantity wasn't as easy as a first glance at the pictures might appear.
Naming and matching up containers of various seeds with the products they get turned into caused much discussion, and obviously some hadn't given raw materials much thought, while others were brashly confident.
A variety of 'things' in jars of formalin produced a mixture of reactions, and there were obviously some who weren't going to be vets, while others found the contents fascinating.
The afternoon was spent 'speed dating' with representatives from the variety of industries who talked about what they do in their jobs.
Some students spoken to at lunchtime were decided on what they wanted to do next year; others appeared blown away by the huge range of choices and the knowledge required for them.
Ten such events will be held this year, six in the North Island and four in the South, the final ones in June, funded jointly by DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
The organisation of each experience day has been handed over to Young Farmers members, who urged their teams on and made sure the shy ones participated.