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2018 Waikato Dairy Industry Award winners announced

The major winners in the 2018 Waikato Dairy Industry Awards are first-time entrants who saw the Awards as an opportunity to obtain an independent assessment of their business and to identify areas to improve.

Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year competition at the Waikato Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at the Don Rowlands Centre at Karapiro last night. The other big winners were Chelsea Smith, who became the 2018 Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year, and Aaron Courage, the 2018 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Steve and Amy, both aged 31 years, are Contract Milking 470 cows for Peter and Marian van der Heyden at Putaruru and won $13,750 in prizes.

Their goals are to continue to progress through the industry by obtaining sharemilking positions, and they believe the strengths of their operation lie in the people.

“Steve and I have complimentary skills and supportive farm owners, plus great staff that make the farm an enjoyable work environment,” says Amy. “And Steve knows how to make milk!”

Steve has been in the industry eight years, and was working as a mechanic before moving to New Zealand from Scotland in 2010 and making the career change. “I’m proud that I’ve progressed through the industry from farm assistant to contract milker on one farm,” he says.

Amy grew up on a farm and holds a Bachelor of Applied Science, majoring in Agriculture. She worked as a DairyNZ consulting officer and is now an AgriManager with ANZ, as well as working with Steve on the farm.

The couple aim to mitigate small challenges before they become big issues and love working with happy, healthy animals. “I didn’t choose farming as a career,” says Steve. “Farming chose me.”

Te Awamutu 50:50 Sharemilkers Will and Kirsten Rolton, aged 33 and 42 respectively, were runners-up in the Share Farmer competition, winning $6,025 in prizes. They work on Kees and Hannie Rombouts 85.5ha, 274-cow farm.

Prior to immigrating to New Zealand in 2010, Will managed dairy and arable in the UK. “When we came to New Zealand we found learning the new system challenging to learn, but fun at the same time,” says Will. “Working my way up from the bottom again was frustrating though.”

“Enduring the weather in two previous springs and the summer of 2014 reinforced the importance of having off-farm interests, a balanced lifestyle and a good head space,” say the couple. “We love spending time with our young family and have two season tickets at Waikato Stadium – Go the Chiefs!”

They believe monitoring their farm data allows them to adjust where necessary to achieve efficiency. “We like to keep our finger on the pulse.”

Clint Gulliver and Jess Howie, aged 32 and 31 years respectively, placed third in the Share Farmer competition. The couple are Contract Milkers on Aad and Jill De Groot’s 65ha Ngarua farm, milking 214 cows. They won $3,950 in prizes.

Clint and Jess both have farming backgrounds although Clint was determined not to step foot back in the cowshed. However, after three years as a Rural Bank Manager, he realised he missed being on the land.

“What I love most about farming is that there is something new to do every day, which helps to keep my mind fresh,” he says. “I am always looking for the next way to make our business more efficient.”

The couple say their ultimate goal is farm ownership, however it is most important that they keep their own well-being and that of their animals and land at the centre of all they do.

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors Westpac, DairyNZ, DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian Energy, New Zealand Farm Source and Ravensdown, along with industry partner Primary ITO.

The winner of the 2018 Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year competition was previously a ‘Travelling Winemaker’ who would spend half the year working the grape harvest, then the rest of the year travelling or returning back to New Zealand to the family farm, before she decide to enter the dairy industry full-time in 2015.

Chelsea Smith, who won $8,975 in prizes, is currently Farm Manager for Steven and Amy Van Der Poel’s 250ha farm, milking 1180 cows in Otorohanga.

“I love the variation in dairy farming. I love the support, the growth potential and that everyone wants to help and share their information,” explains Chelsea.
“I treat the cows like they are my own – they are the most important part of the business and need to be looked after and cared for. They all have their own personalities!”

Chelsea believes one of the strengths of the business lies in the strong communication that exists between the team. “I always converse with the farm owner and staff to ensure everyone is up-to-date with the day-to-day or week-to-week happenings on the farm,” she says.

It was the first time Chelsea, aged 28 years, had entered the awards, doing so to give herself a challenge, learn more about the farm and business she works on and networking.

Matamata Farm Manager Shane White, aged 25 years, was second in the Dairy Manager competition, winning $3,800 in prizes. Shane entered the dairy industry straight from school and is proud he has worked his way up through the industry, accepting a Contract Milker position for next season.

“I love all aspects of dairy farming, even dealing with consecutive wet springs and droughts throughout my career,” says Shane. “Production doesn’t fluctuate too much from season-to-season on the farm. In-shed feeding can fill any feed deficits and keep the production going.”

“It’s a simple system to run; the cows do all the work, not machinery.”

24-year-old Morrinsville Farm Manager Ngawharau (Nga) Apaapa placed third and won $2,575 in prizes. Nga works on Bruce and Donna Arnold’s 200ha Tatuanui farm, milking 765 cows.

Nga has entered the Awards twice previously, placing second in the Dairy Manager category in 2014. He says entering the awards has allowed him to gain in-depth knowledge about the business he was managing and ensured he was doing all he could to operate the business profitably and effectively.

The 2018 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year, Aaron Courage, is a young farmer who is passionate about the dairy industry and would like to progress into a leadership position within the industry in the coming years.

“I would like to breed quality animals that have a positive impact on the industry,” says Aaron. “Currently I’m focused on breeding a bull into the team of premier sires, which I am working towards through quality stock investment and working with other successful breeders.” He is also training to be an AB technician.

The 19-year-old grew up on a dairy farm on the west coast of the South Island and has been working full-time in the industry since age 16. “I’ve aspired to be a dairy farmer for as long as I can remember,” he says. “I thoroughly enjoy milking above all tasks, and my two favourite times of the year are calving and mating.”

Aaron is Farm Assistant for Stewart and Kathryn Anderson on their 146ha, 430-cow property at Otorohanga and won $6,180 in prizes.

He says entering the awards is an opportunity to express his love for dairy farming. “I am extremely passionate about challenging myself to continue improve my skills and potential input into the industry.”

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee competition was 20-year-old Assistant Manager Connah Hunter, who won $1,950 in prizes.

“Farming has always been in my blood and I was inspired by my Grandad and Nana who have farmed all their lives,” Connah says. “Observing them made me realise that when you apply yourself farming can provide a challenging yet satisfying lifestyle.

Connah is an enthusiastic member of the dairy industry who is dedicated to working his way up the ladder. “I’m also excited about encouraging other young workers into the industry and enabling them to find the same passion I have.”

Connah works for 2015 Waikato Farm Manager of the Year winners Paul and Kate Manion on Jonathan Robinson’s 143ha, 550-cow Cambridge property.

Third place in the Dairy Trainee competition went to 20-year-old Waihou 2IC Joseph (Joe) Aspin, winning $1,550 in prizes. He works on the NZSF Waikato Farms Ltd 124ha farm.

The Waikato Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on April 5 at 455 Whites Road, Putaruru, where Waikato Share Farmers of the Year, Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson, contract milk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Chelsea Smith and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Aaron Courage. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at www.dairyindustryawards.co.nz.

Share Farmer Merit Awards:
• DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Phil and Rebecca Abrams
• Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Clint Gulliver and Jess Howie
• Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – Zach Mounsey and Laura Campbell
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Will and Kirsten Rolton
• Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Chris and Sarah McLean
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Will and Kirsten Rolton

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
• Pioneer Most Promising Entrant Award - Sam Marneth-Rust
• Staples Rodway Employee Engagement Award – Chelsea Smith
• ADM Feed Management Award - Chelsea Smith
• Blackman Spargo Rural Law Ltd Leadership Award – Nga Apaapa
• Fonterra Farm Source Dairy Management Award – Chelsea Smith
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Shane White
• Primary ITO Power Play Award – Chelsea Smith
• Westpac Financial Management & Planning Award – Shane White

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
• Farm Right Most Promising Entrant Award – Angus Hamilton
• Bayleys Real Estate Farming Knowledge Award – Aaron Courage
• Blue Grass Contracting Communication & Engagement Award - Joseph Aspin
• Waikato Farmers Trust Community & Industry Involvement Award – Aaron Courage
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Michaela Oakly


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