Blake Carter is living an agricultural contractor’s dream. The 24-year-old from the Manawatū is in the United States harvesting crops for dairy cows, and beef cattle on mega feedlots.
“The gear we drive is replaced annually,” he said, down a crackly phone line from Roswell, New Mexico.
“The 9570R John Deere tractor I’ll be using to pack maize in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico is just about to roll off the assembly line.”
Blake arrived in New Mexico in April following the New Zealand silage season.
The arid state relies on irrigation to help fuel its dairy industry, which ranks as the seventh largest in the United States.
“I spent April mowing young wheat crop, before it developed a head. So it’s lush, green and high in protein. May was busy mowing about 2,000 hectares of mature feed.” he said.
“It’s put into massive stacks and fed to cattle as part of a mixed ration.”
The former Opiki Young Farmers member said the scale of everything in the country is mind-blowing.
“I think the biggest silage stack I built in New Zealand contained 2,000 tonnes of dry matter,” he said.
“Here, a stack we built the other day had 8,000 tonnes of dry matter in it.”
“In the months to come we’ll be harvesting maize for a feedlot in Texas with between 120,000 and 150,000 head of beef cattle,” he said.
Blake works with six other New Zealanders, one’s from Sanson in the Manawatū. Others are from the Waikato. His other co-workers are from England, Scotland, Ireland and the United States.
“I got the job through a friend who has worked here for a few years. Thousands of people apply to work here each year, so I feel quite privileged. It’s a great way to meet people and experience another way of life,” he said.
“We’ve just spent a few days travelling. We drove up to Oklahoma to watch an NBA playoff game and also got to a baseball game.”
Blake encourages other young farmers looking to travel, to consider a working holiday.
“Each time I have been overseas I have had my flights paid for or subsidised, accommodation supplied and always have access to a vehicle. Good times aside, there’s plenty of money to be made,” he said
“I have about 15 mates working in Western Australia planting crops. Applying online or messaging someone who’s had experience working abroad is always the best way to go about finding work.”
Blake is likely to head back to New Zealand in November, but could end up in Arizona.
“They harvest a lot of lucerne, which is called alfalfa over here. They chop all winter. If I get the opportunity to stay and do that I will,” he said.
“They also grow maize in Arizona. It’s been in the ground for a couple months now. It’s planted on flood blocks up to a mile in length. The majority of this maize will stand taller than the chopper cab.”
Blake said Arizona had a plentiful supply of irrigation water. But it’s a different story in Texas.
“Most of Texas is in a drought. There are severe water restrictions which is taking a toll on the amount of tonnage produced,” he said.
The former dairy farmer has also spent a couple of summers harvesting and an autumn seeding in Western Australia.
Keep reading other articles from the same authors and about the same topics.