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Shared Vision for 2014 Central Plateau Dairy Awards Winners

March 18 2014

Shared Vision On Track for 2014 Central Plateau Dairy Awards Winners

A vision to achieve rapid equity growth in livestock agribusiness is firmly on track for the major winners in the 2014 Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards.

Donald and Kirsten Watson were named the region’s Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year at an awards dinner at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua last night (March 18), taking home prizes worth $17,000.

The couple’s vision to achieve financial independence and personal fulfilment was set in 2009 and remains unchanged. “We will continue to grow equity in order to enable us to buy an 800-cow farm in 2020. Personal fulfilment means to us enjoying what we do and always remembering life is a journey and not the destination.”

The other big winners at the 2014 Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards were Robert Hartley, the Farm Manager of the Year, and Ruth Hone, the Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Donald and Kirsten Watson are in their first season 50% sharemilking 990 cows for Glenn and Karen Speed at Taupo. The couple are both veterinarians and worked as mixed animal veterinarians for up to 10 years before entering the dairy industry in 2009.

“We have found the dairy industry to be full of supportive people with immense knowledge they are willing to share. Resources are made easily available and there is no shortage of opportunities to learn and grow.”

The Watsons are both aged 38 years and have three young children. They say their strengths are their shared vision, values and goals, and their willingness to use resources to learn, as well as grow their skills and knowledge.

“We aren’t afraid to innovate, to try new things and to step outside the square. We have learnt to budget, record, monitor, analyse, benchmark and review. We ask for help and support if required and surround ourselves with fantastic people.”

The runners-up in the sharemilker/equity farmer contest for the second year running were Rotorua 24% sharemilkers Alistair and Sarah Coatsworth. They won $9150 in prizes.

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors Westpac, DairyNZ, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda Motorcycles NZ, LIC, Meridian Energy, Ravensdown, RD1 and Triplejump, along with industry partner Primary ITO (formerly AgITO).

The 2014 Central Plateau Farm Manager of the Year, Robert Hartley, believes integrity and structure are the two major strengths of the Rerewhakaaitu farm business he manages.

“Integrity’s important as the farm I manage is a multi-million dollar operation. There is a lot of trust that goes both ways. I need to know that my employer has my best interest at heart and likewise he needs to know that I am always acting in the best interest of the company,” Mr Hartley says.

“Having a robust structure and policies in place is also important as the structure gives a lot of direction and also reassurance on farm.”

The 36-year-old is running the 865-cow farm for Trevor and Harriet Hamilton and entered the awards for the first time for a challenge. He won $11,300 in prizes.

Mr Hartley began dairy farming in 2003, after leaving a career in Information Technology (IT). He has been working for the Hamiltons since 2008 and is interested in moving into an equity position on a farm. “I would one day like to take the knowledge I have and implement it on a farm of my own.”

Tokoroa contract milkers Nathan and Elri Levin placed second in the farm manager contest, winning $4750 in prizes, and Reporoa farm manager Tracey Astle, who won $2175, was third.

The 2014 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year, Ruth Hone, entered the awards for a second time as it gave her the discipline to learn the theory behind practical farming. “The judges also provide helpful feedback.”

Miss Hone, aged 24 years, won $8050 in prizes. She is in her third season in the industry, working on a 250-cow farm for Michelle and Ross Davison near Taupo.

After completing a Bachelor of Applied Science at Massey University she spent two years dairying in Hawkes Bay before moving to the region. Her goal is to be lower order sharemilking within four years.

She is a member of Tihoi Young Farmers and Taupo Harriers, and plans to complete this year’s Rotorua Marathon, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Second place in the trainee contest went to Rotorua farm assistant Samuel Travers, who won $1750, and third went to Whakamaru 2IC Gerard van der Mark, who won $2600 in prizes.

Central Plateau Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Donald and Kirsten Watson, will host a field day on April 9, while Farm Manager of the Year, Robert Hartley, will host a field day on the Rerewhakaaitu farm he manages on April 2. Further details on the winners and field days can be found on

Sharemilker/Equity Farmer Merit Awards:
• BlackmanSpargo Legal Audit Award - Alistair & Sarah Coatsworth
• DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Alistair & Sarah Coatsworth
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Byron Horner & Hannah Massey
• Federated Farmers of New Zealand Leadership Award – Donald & Kirsten Watson
• Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – Alistair & Sarah Coatsworth
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Campbell & Katie Wheeler
• Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Hayden & Narelle Hilhorst
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Donald & Kirsten Watson
• Triplejump Risk Management Award – Andres Montero
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Donald & Kirsten Watson

Farm Manager Merit Awards:
• The Vet Club Best Livestock Award - Robert Hartley
• BOP Regional Council Leadership Award – Robert Hartley
• Fonterra Best Practice Award – Tracey Astle
• Primary ITO Human Resource Management Award – Robert Hartley
• RD1 Farm Management Award – Robert Hartley
• Westpac Financial Planning and Management Award – Nathan & Elri Levin

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
• T H Enterprises Ltd Farming Knowledge Award – Ruth Hone
• Rotorua District Council Leadership Award – Ruth Hone
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Gerard van der Mark


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