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White Gold In Udders

White Gold In Udders

Forget the milk of human kindness. It’s cows’ milk that is turning white into gold for New Zealand’s elite sharemilkers.

Participants in the 2005 New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year competition have fronted up for a share in a regional and national prize pool of nearly $350,000.

The ten regional winners have been identified and in addition to the spoils they have collected locally, they are now looking at a national prize pool of some $63,000.

A team of three judges will visit each finalist on their farms – it takes the judges who set off on their mission on Anzac Day 12 days to complete the tour.

The national final will be held in Hamilton on May 7 and tickets to the final showdown are selling fast according to national convenor Chris Keeping.

“It’s a very exciting night. With the final judging session not taking place until the afternoon of the presentation and only the judges knowing the result, the tension is enormous,” she says.

“Even our MC, Bull Allen, will not know the name of the winner until he opens the envelope. Our ‘Moovie’ stars theme for 2005 is very apt – this is the Oscars of the dairy industry.

The 10 finalists are:


Rakaia sharemilkers Leo (40) and Kathryn (38) van den Beuken.

The van den Beukens are 50:50 sharemilkers, milking 620 cows on 185 hectares owned by Max and Adrienne Duncan. Their anticipated production for the season is 253,000kg/ms.

The couple cite a combination of individual strengths, management of human resources and finances along with good farming practices and business knowledge as strengths in their business.

It was their fifth attempt at winning a Sharemilker of the Year title, having entered four times previously when sharemilking in Taranaki.

Leo and Kathryn say that through their involvement with the competition they have gained a better understanding of their business. They believe that entrants benefit from networking with likeminded people, and are likely to achieve farm ownership in shorter time frames.

They began as lower order sharemilkers in Taranaki milking 130 cows in 1990 and this year, in addition to their sharemilking role in Canterbury, purchased a 250 cow farm in Taranaki. Their goal is to own a 400 – 600 cow property within three to five years.

“We also want to continue to enjoy dairy farming and promote it as a promising career.”


Te Awamutu sharemilker Michael Visser (39).

Mr Visser is a 50:50 sharemilker, milking 1000 cows on 290 effective hectares owned by Haerepo Trust. His production for the 2003-04 season was 324,860kg/ms.

Mr Visser said the large scale of his business had contributed to his success. It provided the opportunity to produce large cow and cash surpluses along with the ability to buy bulk supplies.

He has a firm belief in the value of the strength of relationships between owner, consultant accountant and sharemilker.

“A written plan along with monthly communication means everyone’s goals are met,” Mr Visser says.

In his eleventh year of sharemilking, Mr Visser has experienced a variety of roles – one year on wages, two years managing and two years contract milking.

He was among 16 entrants vying for the Waikato title. It was just his second attempt and he says benefits from entering included putting his business under scrutiny and networking with other successful sharemilkers.

An active member of the NZ Deerstalker Association, Mr Visser’s other interests include invention and design as well as cryptic crosswords.

Bay of Plenty

Pukehina sharemilkers Kelly (36) and Karen (34) Shaw. .

The Shaws are 50:50 sharemilkers, milking 650 cows on 179 effective hectares owned by Landcorp Farming Ltd. Their production for the 2003/04 season was 1225kg/ms/ha.

Kelly and Karen believe good people and communication skills mean they can effectively manage their staff, and attention to setting and achieving budgets has resulted in successful financial management.

It was the couple’s fourth attempt for the title. They say benefits gained have included an opportunity to benchmark themselves against other sharemilkers, networking, and meeting other positive, like-minded people.

Kelly grew up on a dairy farm but trained as a mechanic before entering the dairy industry in 1996. After contract milking for two years Kelly bought his own herd in 2000, and began 50:50 sharemilking 220 cows, steadily building up to a 650-strong herd.

The Shaws’ interests include squash, fishing and mountain biking with their three children, Matthew (7), Deanna (5) and Nathan (2). Their eventual goal is land ownership.

Central Plateau

Ngakuru sharemilkers Warren (36) and Louise (34) Berry.


The Berrys are 50:50 sharemilkers, milking 760 cows on 340 effective hectares owned by the Tutbury Family Trust. Their anticipated production for this season is 225,000kg/ms.

Warren and Louise believe teamwork – from staff through to rural professionals and service providers - along with an ability to set and achieve goals contributed their success.

The couple plans to continue growing their business through farm ownership, joint ventures or equity partnerships. They say they enjoyed the experience of entering Sharemilker of the Year and found it rewarding reviewing and resetting their goals for the future.

With two children, Jordan (3) and Liam (20 months), the Berrys also enjoy travelling, family time, fishing and reading.

Hawkes Bay/Wairarapa

Pahiatua sharemilkers David and Janine Swansson.

Winning this title was the perfect way for the couple to wind up their sharemilking days as from next season, they will be running their own property.

David and Janine currently farm at Marima near Pahiatua where they are milking 260 cows on 93 hectares. The property is owned by Russell and Anne Hughes.

This was not the first time the Swanssons have entered the competition and they have often commented on its value in terms of benchmarking their skills, standards and performance.

“The competition has provided an excellent motivation for us to do better and has helped us identify our weak points as well as our strengths,” David Swansson says. “We have always benefited from discussing our farm business and the standard of our presentation after the judging round.”

The couple has also appreciated the opportunity the competition presents to mix with positive and motivated like-minded people.


A positive outlook along with knowledge and experience in the dairy industry are among strengths demonstrated by Levin sharemilkers John (36) and Wendy (35) Allen in winning the title 2005 Manawatu/Rangitikei Sharemilker of the Year.

The Allens are 50:50 sharemilkers with a herd of 540 cows on a 275ha farm at Ohau, Levin owned by the Tahamata Incorporation. They have anticipated production of 190,000kg/ms for the 2004/2005 season (174,286kg/ms for 2003/04).

Their win was announced at a function in the Palmerston North Convention Centre tonight.

“It’s a valuable addition to the CV, assisting with job applications and impressing the bank,” say the Allens, who have two children, Daniel (7) and Sam (5).

It was fourth time lucky for the couple, who said they had benefited from past competitions through feedback from judges and improved financial and business management.

John Allen has a Bachelor of Agriculture from Massey University and has been farming for 20 years. He worked through from farm worker, to manager, to lower order sharemilker before becoming a 50:50 sharemilker. Wendy Allen has a Bachelor of Business Studies from Massey University.

Their goal is to own a 350 cow farm.


Dipton sharemilkers Chris (37) and Charleen (36) Withy.

The Withys are 50:50 sharemilkers, milking 630 cows on 216 hectares owned by Owen and Margaret Westlake. Their anticipated production for the season is 273,000kg/ms.

It was the couple’s second attempt at the title. They say taking part in the awards has helped them develop their profile in terms of attracting future employers as well as giving them a more in depth understanding of their business and an opportunity to meet people in the dairy industry.

Both Chris and Charleen were brought up on dairy farms. They spent five year in the dairy industry in Edgecumbe before taking on the Southland position four years ago.

The Withys attribute their business strength to an ability to reduce debt quickly through ensuring they have strong cash flow. They have a strong focus on performance, and intend to keep their core business in the dairy industry, enabling them to investigate off-farm investments.


It was third time lucky for Manaia sharemilkers Dean (41) and Alison (35) Smith.

The couple has entered twice before, but their last attempt was six years ago. They say they retired to “lick their wounds”, realising “we weren’t as savvy as we thought we were. We knew we had to become more business savvy”.

The Smiths certainly demonstrated how hard work and determination lead to results.

The couple milk 250 cows on 75 hectares at Auroa Road for the Whakahau Trust, producing 101,925kg/ms last season.

Their entry into dairying was working for wages in Hawera in 1994, milking 160 cows. They progressed to a 320 cow lower order contract in 1995, then secured a 50/50 position in Te Roti milking 215 cows where they remained for three seasons. Then, after a year in Ruawaro west of Huntly, they took on the current position where they’ve been since 2000.

Business strengths the Smiths have developed which they believe contributed to their win include attention to detail. “We do the basics well and are constantly aware of where our business is at.” The Smiths are also results-driven: “We are here to perform to our optimum. If we think we can improve things we will investigate.”

Dean and Alison’s goals for the future are focussed on building equity through either increased cow numbers (a larger 50/50 position); farm ownership (equity partnership) or purchasing commercial property.

Top of the South/West Coast

Westport sharemilkers John and Jo-Anne Milne.

John and Jo-Anne milk 230 cows on a 90-hectare property in Westport with production of 80,000kg/ms. The farm is owned by Margaret and David Milne.

The couple were first time entrants in the awards. John has been in the dairy industry 18 years, starting as a farm cadet as a 15-year-old, moving to assistant herd manager of 500 cows, before becoming sole manager of a 110-cow farm at the age of 18. In 1993/94, a family partnership was formed with his parents to convert the farm where he and Jo-Anne now work in a 50:50 sharemilking arrangement.

Jo-Anne, by contrast, describes herself as originally a “townie”. She was a shop assistant for five years before joining the family partnership and is now a calf rearer and relief milker.

The Milnes, both 33 years old, believe part of their success lies in “getting the basics right. This makes the day-to-day running of the business more successful and enjoyable.”


Thames sharemilkers Peter (36) and Sandi (34) Thompson.

The Thompsons are 50:50 sharemilkers at Matatoki where they milk 265 cows on 90 hectares owned by Mrs Merle Smith of Harold Smith Matatoki Ltd. Their current production is 91,197kg/ms.

It was the couple’s third attempt at the title and they say benefits of taking part have included mixing with like-minded, motivated people, recognition of hard work/experience, benchmarking and self analysis.

Peter and Sandi believe that being able to work well together as a partnership, with good planning and time management, enables them to run a cost effective system without need for additional labour.

“We operate a simple, efficient system and do the basics well,” Peter Thompson says.

He has been dairy farming since leaving school at the age of 15. He started 50:50 sharemilking in 1992/93 for his parents’ Northwood Farm Ltd and remained there till 2001/2002.

He met Sandi, a “townie”, eight years ago and together they started sharemilking for Harold Smith Matatoki Ltd in 2002. With five children aged between five and 14 years, family is a big priority along with a shared interest in stock cars. Their future goal is farm ownership.

The 2005 New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year Competition is run in association with Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc) and sponsored by Dairy InSight, ACC, Bank of New Zealand, Blue Wing Honda, Dexcel, Ecolab, Fonterra, Livestock Improvement and Ravensdown.

Tickets for the 2005 New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year in Hamilton are available from Federated Farmers, Anna Steiner on 0800 327 646 .


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