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West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards

2019 West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards Winners Announced

A Hokitika couple have been announced as major winners in the 2019 West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards.

Thomas and Hannah Oats were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year Category at the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held in Greymouth last night. The other big winners were George King, who was named the 2019 West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Manager of the Year, and Jeffrey Hawes, the 2019 West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year.

The Oats are 50/50 Sharemilkers for Stuart And Adrienne Coleman’s 83.5ha farm in Hokitika. They won $6,500 in prizes and three merit awards. They were the region’s Farm Managers of the Year in 2015.

It was the couple’s third time entering the Awards. “We love what we do and work well together. Entering the Awards gives us the opportunity to meet like-minded people.”

The couple aim to progress to farm ownership and are proud of owning well looked-after stock.

“One strength of our business is our low break-even point due to low costs and a good income from relief milking, Air BnB and Hannah’s extra work as an A.I Technician,” explains Thomas.

“Our enjoyable work environment provides a solid foundation on which to build our team and our business. The cows’ well-being always comes first.”

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



Runners-up in the West Coast-Top of the South category were Jamie and Felicity Thomas, aged 37 and 40 years respectively. They won $2,250 in prizes and one merit award.

The couple are 50/50 sharemilkers for Mark and Julie Freeman over two properties. A 140ha, 380-cow farm and a 112ha, 300-cow farm, both at Atapo.

The second-time entrants wanted to grow their knowledge and understanding of their business. “The Awards really provide the platform to do this.”

Jamie grew up on a dairy farm in the UK, where he spent five years sharemilking with Felicity before moving to New Zealand. “It was a huge challenge to begin sharemilking in New Zealand during two low pay-out years and to manage staff and the different climate conditions.”
“We are very proud that we now own 700 cows plus replacements and run two dairy farms.” The couple’s future farming goals include equity partnership or farm ownership.

“Our ability to produce above average milk for the district means we are in an excellent position to grow and expand our business.”

Third place went to Justine Kelly, a first-time entrant who is a country girl with deep roots and a passion for working on the land with animals. She won $2,000 in prizes and three merit awards

Justine is 50/50 sharemilking on Arnold Kelly’s 422ha farm at Springwater, where she milks 840 cows.

Justine says working with family can be a challenge however it is also one of the business’ biggest strengths. “I’m not in unfamiliar territory, I know the family farm and infrastructure very well.”

“Most of all, I’m proud to be a woman doing it on my own and that I own my herd.”

The winner of the 2019 West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Manager of the Year category was Runner-up in the same category last year.

George King won $6,000 in prizes and three merit awards and is the farm manager for Alex and Julie King’s 103ha Westport property, milking 274 cows.

The second-time entrant says the Awards helped with business and career options. “They provide a clear and quantitative appraisal of your business which enables you to make informed decisions about your business direction.”

George grew up on a dairy farm and says the death of his younger brother in a farm-related accident in 2006 was a major challenge he has overcome. “His death has driven me to pursue goals and cherish every day.”

Choosing farming as a career was a natural choice for George who loves the animals, the variety in work, the constant challenge of finding new tricks, new methods and making things work.

“There are many opportunities within the dairy industry for young entrepreneurs. The lifestyle makes it more than a job, anyone who can spend their life doing what they love is truly lucky,” he says.

“The resources and infrastructure of the farm owners drives the whole operation extremely successfully.”

Runner-up in the West Coast Top of the South Dairy Manager category was Rachael Lind who won $2000 in prizes and one merit award.

The 35-year-old is Farm Manager for Pamu Farms of New Zealand, on the 459ha, 1040-cow Cape Foulwind property.

Rachael grew up on a sheep farm in the Marlborough Sounds and entered the dairy industry 19 years ago as a Dairy Assistant, progressing through the industry to her Manager’s role.

“I love working with animals and being outside – it’s an awesome office, even on the worst weather days,” she says.

“It can be challenging being a woman in a male-dominated industry, and balancing work with two young children, however I want to be an ambassador and mentor for women in the dairy industry.”

Rachael believes if there is something you want, you should persevere until you have succeeded. “Believe in yourself, you don’t know until you try. Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something.”

Rachael sees the strength of her business lying in the excellent relationship Pamu has with their staff. “They really look after their staff which aligns with my morals within my family and life outside work. I believe looking after our people and those closest to us is important.”

Laurens and Leigh Foulger placed third and won $1,500 in prizes and two merit awards. The couple, both aged 30, are Farm Managers for Jon and Alison Sullivan on their 180ha, 530-cow Harihari property.

While Leigh grew up on the farm in Harihari, Laurens was born in the Netherlands and after obtaining a university degree in farming and dairying moved to New Zealand for placement and has been here ever since. Leigh studied to be a speech and language therapist, returning to farm life after meeting Laurens.

“I believe we are the strength of our business and we are the driving force behind it and what we are doing here,” says Laurens. “Also, the farm infrastructure, in particular the cow barn, because it allows us to save the paddocks, and the cows are comfortable and sheltered.”

The 2019 West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year, Jeffrey Hawes, entered the Awards as he saw it as a great opportunity to meet more people in the industry and learn from them.

The 23-year-old first-time entrant is a Farm Assistant on the 449ha, 860-cow Landcorp property in Moana. Jeffrey won $6,050 in prizes.

Jeffrey says he loves working with animals and being in the outdoors. “Farming also allows me to have a great work/life balance.”

A former Environmental Technician, Jeffrey also studied and worked in the IT industry before moving to the transport and logistics industry. He holds Certificates in Information Communication and Technologies, the PrimaryITO Level 3 Livestock Feeding and Pastures and is currently studying Level 3 Husbandry.

“I’m very proud of how far I’ve come in just one year,” says Jeffrey. “When I started dairy farming, I faced challenges due to a lack of training, however I overcame those by studying and teaching myself from the internet, as well as asking other people in the industry for advice.”

When not working, Jeffrey enjoys time with his wife Sarah and their 18-month-old son Charlie. “I’m also a volunteer firefighter.”

Future farming goals include further study with an ultimate goal of farm ownership.

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee category was 20-year-old Wakefield 2IC Dallas Bradley, who won $1,500 in prizes plus a merit award. Dallas works for Phil Riley on their 150ha, 400-cow farm.

Dallas was still in the early stages of dairy farming when she entered the Awards for the first time in 2018. “That experience has taught me there is a lot more to dairy farming than just feeding and milking the cows.”

“I fell in love with the diversity of the job and being able to do so many different jobs in a day and learning about different machinery.”

“What I really enjoy about farming is the cows. I have so many friendly cows in the herd and they all have such a personality. You work hard as you want the best for them.”

Third place in the Dairy Trainee category went to 25-year-old Farm Assistant Jarrod Rae who won $1,250 in prizes. He works for Isaac Kersten on John and Toni Kersten’s 130ha, 360-cow farm in Greymouth.

The West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on April 15 at 10.30am at 1462 Kaniere Kowhitirangi Road, Hokitika where Share Farmers of the Year, Thomas and Hannah Oats share milk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, George King, and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Jeffrey Hawes. 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 – Justine Kelly
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Thomas and Hannah Oats
• Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Michael and Cheryl Shearer
• Honda Farm Safety, Health & Biosecurity Award – Justine Kelly
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Justine Kelly
• Meridian Farm Environment Award – Thomas and Hannah Oats
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Jamie and Felicity Thomas
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Thomas and Hannah Oats

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
• PAMU Farms of New Zealand Employee Engagement Award – Clay Paton
• Cuffs Chartered Accountant and Business Advisors Leadership Award – Rachael Lind
• PGG Wrightson – Livestock and Real Estate Feed Management Award – George King
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award – George King
• Fonterra Dairy Management Award – George King
• PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Laurens and Leigh Foulger
• Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award – Laurens and Leigh Foulger

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
• West Coast/Top of the South DIA Most Promising Entrant Award – Stephanie Gray
• Dairy Holdings Limited Farming Knowledge Award – Alexis Wells
• Silver Fern Farms Community & Industry Involvement Award – Jeffrey Hawes
• Greenfield Motors Communication & Engagement Award – Jeffrey Hawes
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Dallas Bradley

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