Sheep Nutter chooses New Zealand to learn from the best
Dayanne Almeida is living her best life in New Zealand, and it’s sheep farming that brought her here.
The animal science graduate says her introduction to sheep at a field day in her home country of Brazil was a case of love at first sight.
“I had a lightbulb moment that day,” she says. “I got really excited and from then on I knew I wanted to work with and study sheep.”
And she determined New Zealand was the only destination for her. “It has a global reputation for excellence and efficiency in pasture-based animal production. In Brazil, if you say you have any knowledge of sheep farming in New Zealand, everyone stops to listen and really engages.”
Dayanne says she also was motivated by friends who had an international education experience. “They said just being overseas learning a new language and understanding a new culture will be an amazing experience. But I was determined that if I went overseas, I would work with sheep.”
Seeking out New Zealand work experience
So back in 2009, aged 24, she searched out opportunities in New Zealand, aware she needed to work and improve her language skills before undertaking study here.
She researched breeding farms on the internet and sent 500 emails over a two-year period. Eventually she got a reply from a Central Hawke’s Bay ram breeder who was happy to take her on. “I came for three or four weeks and ended up staying there five years,” she says.
Blessed with an eternally patient farm manager, Dayanne learned English by working alongside him armed with a notebook and pocket dictionary, looking up any words she could decipher. “I think I showed him so much interest and enthusiasm that he thought he would give me a chance to succeed.”
“If you show good attitude and initiative, Kiwis are really good at seeing potential in people.”
Once she had mastered English, and a range of farming skills, she signed up for a Diploma in Agricultural Management through the Agricultural Industry Training Organisation (ITO).
Sharing farming industry knowledge with Brazil
Not realising the far-reaching impact it would have, Dayanne set up a social media presence with her “Canal Sheepnutter” Facebook and Instagram accounts, introducing thousands of people to New Zealand's way of farming through blogs and vlogs. Her Facebook page went viral in Brazil and she started receiving invitations to speak at various events there.
She describes her first tour in Brazil in 2016 as a “marathon”, speaking to interested groups day and night for four weeks. “I just wanted to share what we are doing. It’s about working together with New Zealand on sharing knowledge, technology, and work experience.”
With thousands of attendees, she quickly received new invitations for another tour. In 2018 she crossed paths with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) which was sponsoring one of the events she was attending. Appreciating the valuable role Dayanne was playing in sharing New Zealand’s farming experience in Brazil, they offered to sponsor her air travel costs to Brazil each year so she could undertake speaking engagements, magazines interviews, and appearances on rural tv shows. “They wanted to bring New Zealand to Brazil. I felt pretty special, like I was creating a bridge between the two countries.”
Value of a New Zealand study experience
Dayanne has certainly pushed her own boundaries to achieve a life she says she could only have dreamed of a few years ago. She is on the verge of completing her Masters in Sheep Genetics and Breeding through Massey University, a qualification she has studied for part-time over five years while working full-time and becoming a mother to four-year-old Isabella.
She says the majority of students in her Master’s class are from overseas. “I asked them what brought them here and they said it was the New Zealand study experience. The exact subject matter doesn’t matter so much. It’s about the prestige of having a New Zealand study experience on your CV.”
She is impressed with the way the agribusiness-focused universities in New Zealand work with industry. “There is a connectivity between academics and farmers here that just doesn’t happen in Brazil.”
“The farms which universities operate here are run like a business and students are exposed to the real world. When you come here, your study will have real relevance because you will be exposed to technology, finances, actual farm statistics, and real-life decision-making. Sharing knowledge is empowering.”
"When you come here, your study will have real relevance because you will be exposed to technology, finances, actual farm statistics, and real-life decision-making" - former international student and animal scientist Dayanne Almeida
She and partner Paul are now farming in their own right, having taken on the lease for an 850ha sheep and beef farm in Wairarapa. Dayanne juggles farm work with her “day job” as North Island Area Manager and Technical Lead for animal genetics services company Zoetis.
She is grateful for all the opportunities she has been offered along the way in New Zealand and knows that her future lies here.
“I’m happy to return to Brazil to share my knowledge, but I’m a Kiwi now.”