Nicky Tily grew up in urban Christchurch and worked in the food service sector for a number of years – but today, she’s a junior stockperson working with up to 4,000 pigs – and she loves every minute of it.
“Pigs are so intelligent,” says Nicky, who is 23. “I enjoy everything about the job.”
Nicky had always liked the idea of working with animals or on a farm and considered a career in vet nursing. However, having completed a six month course, gaining a National Certificate in Animal Husbandry, she decided against vet nursing.
Her first job in the farming sector was with Mapua stud at Southbridge, which includes a sheep stud, dairy grazing, cropping and a 120 sow outdoor piggery. She enjoyed all of the work, but particularly working with the pigs.
In July, she moved to Offaly Farms at Annat, near Sheffield, working for farmer Sean Molloy – as the farm is closer to home in Coalgate where she now lives with her partner. The indoor piggery is home to 400 breeding sows. At any one time, there are 4000 pigs on site including piglets, weaners, growers and sows.
“All my learning in farming has been on the job although I’m now pursuing Primary ITO Level 3 qualifications around pigs,” says Nicky. “It’s been a steep learning curve but I have really enjoyed it. I’ve learned about health and safety, driving the vehicles, how to do artificial insemination (AI),use the feed mill, give pigs vaccines and carry out health checks.”
“There is a lot of automation at Offaly Farms. Rather than adding all the components of a diet recipe manually into the mixer, I’ll make a small bucket of minerals first, then the grains, oils, and other necessary things are added automatically into the mixer. The sows feed in the ESF (electronic sow feeder) and there are 7 feeding stations. The sows are all ear tagged with an electronic ID tag. The tag tells the feeder who the sow is, how much to feed her and relays all the information back to us about her on the computer. A big focus for me is the health of the pigs.”
A big part of her enjoyment of the role is the personalities of pigs and being part of ensuring they are happy and well cared for.
“Most people never get to talk to a pig farmer because there aren’t that many of them and they are off the beaten track. But you should see how happy and chilled the pigs are in their big temperature-controlled rooms. A lot of the time they are just lying around relaxing. Sometimes I’ll go in to check if one hasn’t been to feed and it’s because she is so relaxed. They don’t mind a belly rub or a scratch now and then. I love playing with the piglets too.”
Nicky also really enjoys the environmental aspects of working on farm.
“We have an amazing covered effluent pond and all the effluent is used elsewhere on the farm – we spread it on the paddocks. We also have a very efficient composting system. The system is all natural and only uses saw dust to compost the pigs effluent. We have about five sheep on farm, four ewes and Malcom the wether. So the world’s shortest lambing season – as well as some beef cattle. Sean’s father Peter Molloy used to be a racehorse trainer and he owns some racehorses, so sometimes I get to work with those too.”
Nicky says getting involved with Young Farmers helped her to make the move from city work to a rural career. Joining her local Waimakariri Young Farmers, she has become the Treasurer and even won member of the year.
“I didn’t want to keep working in the city, so I looked for jobs I could apply for in farming. I’d definitely like to stay working with pigs. It would be good to move into management eventually.”