The original costs were funded by gifts and public donations amounting to $56,000, with a further government contribution of $18,000. The founder was Sir William Perry, who was chairman of the board for 20 years from 1919 to 1939. He was a First World War soldier and lawyer and president of the Returned Servicemans' Association from 1935 to 1943. He was also the inaugural president of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1924, president of Federated Farmers of NZ in 1950 and Minister of the Armed Forces and War Co-ordination in the War Cabinet in 1943. Sir William bequeathed his farm near Masterton for training purposes.
The original Wairarapa Centre began with 60 men receiving practical farm training. Later the farm was used for various purposes related to training in agricultural skills.
After the Second World War, it was again made available to returned servicemen. From 1944 to 1950, 80 men passed through the farm under the Rehabilitation Department's scheme, prior to settling onto their own farms.
In 1951, the trustees decided to carry out extensive improvements and enlarged the activities of the farm to provide training for young people between the ages of 16 - 20 years.
For a long time it was known as the Wairarapa Cadet Training Farm and changed its name in the early 1980's to Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre. Taratahi is governed under the terms of the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre (Wairarapa) Act 1969.
Taratahi is New Zealand's largest agricultural training centre, offering a variety of full and part time educational opportunities. The system of governance (which includes Ministerial oversight and an Act of Parliament) invokes a national responsibility to ensure that all New Zealanders have the chance to contribute to the most important industry and continue to make it a global leader. Taratahi offers a unique learning environment, with thousands of hectares of commercial farm land, residential accommodation and significant well-resourced teaching areas.
The farming operations are there to provide real training on real farms to students and to ensure students are work ready once they graduate. These consist of farms owned, leased and managed in 12 locations in the North Island, from southern Wairarapa to Northland. Included are the home dairy unit in Masterton; the Mangarata sheep breeding and finishing farm at Bideford, north-east of Masterton; the adjacent Glenside and Koromiko hill country sheep, beef and cropping farms at Gladstone; the Riverslea dairy farm at Rangitumau, north of Masterton; Te Marie dairy farm in South Wairarapa; Pukewhai dairy farm at Pahiatua, North Wairarapa; Grassmere dairy farm, at Egmont Village, Taranaki; Waimate West dairy demonstration farm, Taranaki; Hawke's Bay campus sheep and beef farmland; Tautane Station, Southern Hawke's Bay; and Titoki dairy farm, near Whangarei, Northland.
In 2012 the assets both on Taratahi's balance sheet and those managed on behalf of others, were over $100m. Its operating revenue was $16 million. Nearly 100 farms throughout New Zealand facilitate training programmes. In 2013, Taratahi worked from campuses in Wairarapa, Taranaki, Northland, Waikato, Hawkes Bay and Manawatu to provide a range of industry training. Programmes cover the National Qualifications Framework from Levels 2-5 and Lincoln University in respect of their Regional Diploma in Agriculture. Discussions are underway with Massey University about delivering their diploma from 2014.
During 2012 Taratahi delivered nearly 1000 EFTS (equivalent full-time students), with 30% of those delivered in partnership with other training providers: Northtec, WITT, UCOL and EIT. Last year Taratahi enrolled 99 Primary Industries Trades Academy (PITA) students. This year over 200 secondary school students are engaged with Taratahi.
Taratahi says its success in recent years has occurred due to its learners having the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time on farms that are owned, leased or managed by Taratahi. With a significant increase in full time students studying with Taratahi, the demand for farm access has increased. As such, in 2009 Taratahi purchased Mangarata, a 518 hectare sheep and beef farm situated eight minutes north east of Masterton, and in 2011 Taratahileased Koromiko, an 840 hectare sheep and beef farm in Gladstone. In addition to the farms that are owned and leased, Taratahi meets the demand for student access to dairy farms by entering into contract milking contracts. Taratahis success also comes from the close alignment with stakeholders which includes surveying farmers who have taken on graduates to make sure the programmes are fit for purpose.
Taratahi increased their full-time equivalent (FTE) staff numbers by 28% in 2012 to 135. Courses offered are :
- Level 2 - Primary Industries Trades Academy National Certificate in Agriculture, introduction to farming.
- Level 3 -- Taratahi Certificate in Agriculture; National Certificate in Farming Skills (work ready); National Certificate in Equine (with Panorama Equestrian Centre, Gladstone); National Certificate in Fencing; Certificate in General Farm Skills; Generate Certificate in Rural Leadership; National Certificate in Horticulture.
- Level 4 -- National Certificate in Agriculture.
- Level 5 -- Lincoln University Diploma in Agriculture (part-time option). National Diploma in Agribusiness Management. Massey University Diploma of Agriculture.
Mangarata Farm is part of Farm IQ showcasing new technology and hosting field days for participant farmers. Work to implement EID began on Mangarata before it joined the FarmIQ programme. Taratahi is keen to progress tracking and data collection across the herds and apply analysis to the farm's stock management programme. It is focused on the maternal side of the sheep to improve ewe performance. Not all animals can be finished at Mangarata because of dry summers, so all ewes should have twins and wean their own body weight in lambs. When DNA testing is commercially viable Taratahi wants to build that into its breeding programme option. In the meantime, EID has been a real step up.
Massey University researchers Dr Rene Corner and Prof. Paul Kenyon are working in conjunction with Taratahi farms, and four additional commercial properties, to investigate hogget management. The aim of these studies is to determine the effect of hogget live weight and condition score at various times throughout the year on subsequent reproductive performance. Hogget live weights and condition scores have been recorded prior to mating and at tup reading, pregnancy scanning, set-stocking and at lamb weaning. In addition, information on the rate of foetal loss will also be investigated through the use of a second ultrasound scanning at set-stocking.
At Mangarata additional data will be collected on hoggets and their lambs during the lambing period. At approximately 12 to 24 hours of age lambs will be identified to their dam and tagged. Records of lambs including birth weight, docking weight and weaning weight will be collected. This data will allow for further investigation on the effect of hogget live weight and condition score on lamb growth. In addition, to monitoring hoggets in 2012 it is also hoped to continue to collect data from these animals to determine the impact of hogget breeding on their reproductive performance as two-tooths.