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2019 Waikato Dairy Industry Award winners announced

The major winners in the 2019 Waikato Dairy Industry Awards are first-time entrants who have wanted to enter the Awards since reading about the national winners in 2012 whilst still living in Wales.

Marc and Nia Jones 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 Sir Don Rowlands Centre at Karapiro last night. The other big winners were Joe Kehely, who became the 2019 Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year, and Matt Dawson, the 2019 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Marc and Nia read an article about the 2012 National winners Enda and Sarah Hawe. “This is the first year that we have been eligible to enter as we are now residents,” explains Nia. “It’s always been a goal of ours to enter since reading about Enda back in Wales.”

This is the couple’s first year contract milking for Margaret and the late Ian Elliott, on their 270ha, 970-cow Tokoroa property. “We thought this was the right time to explore, learn and understand our business better, to see how we benchmark against the rest of the region and nation.” They won 13,750 in prizes and three merit awards.

Marc fell in love with the dairy industry on his OE in 2010, when he worked for Ian and Margaret. “Ian has been a mentor to me since then,” he says.

Upon returning to the UK, the couple managed a dairy conversion block in Scotland for two years before moving back to North Wales to contract milk on a dairy conversion.

“We both had a burning desire to come back to New Zealand, so in 2016 we decided to return,” says Nia. “Marc always knew that he wanted to farm but didn’t know how to enter the industry until he visited New Zealand for the first time and understood that the pathway to ownership was viable and realistic if you work hard and are passionate.”

Future farming goals include sharemilking on a 450-cow farm. “We are also looking to invest in an off-farm business like property or shares in the kiwifruit market to help grow our equity,” they say. “We were so proud when we bought our first 20 cows to lease in 2015.”

The new Kiwis are still exploring New Zealand and enjoy time off-farm at the beach or learning how to water-ski, hunt and fish.

The Jones’ have a passion for people management and the soft skills that come with it. “We love working with people and seeing what makes them tick, and find it very rewarding,” they say. “Our team is one of our biggest strengths, we are so fortunate to have three great employees and a great team culture.”

The couple count the opportunity to contract milk 1000 cows in the Waikato as a dream come true. “We work for great people and count ourselves very, very lucky to be here and in this great industry.”

Marc and Nia say the relationship they have with their farm owner and sharemilker is their biggest strength of their business. “They are like our second family. We trust and respect each other and have fun!”

Waitoa 50/50 Sharemilkers Aidan and Sarah Stevenson, both aged 30, were runners-up in the Share Farmer competition, winning $5,675 in prizes. They work on Sue Williams 100ha, 340-cow farm.

The former builder and chartered accountant entered the dairy industry in 2011 and love being outside working with animals and the lifestyle it gives their family.

There have been a few challenges to overcome including facial eczema when spore counts were high a few years ago. “We’ve learnt from our mistakes and now spray for spores when they are starting to rise and haven’t had a problem since.”

The couple are very proud that their first contract bull was purchased by LIC in December 2017 and is now going through their sire proving scheme.

The Stevensons believe the strengths of their business lie in drawing on their previous careers and life experience. They have a strong financial understanding and background, thanks to Sarah’s chartered accountant experience.

“Aidan’s skills in building means we can consider diversified investments outside of the dairy industry, such as housing,” says Sarah.

Monique and John Dickson, both aged 25, placed third in the Share Farmer competition. The couple are Contract Milkers on Steve and Rachel Mathis’ 100ha Tirau farm, milking 340 split calving herd. They won $4,100 in prizes and two merit awards.

Both John and Monique have farming backgrounds and both hold degrees from Massey University, Monique in AgriCommerce and John in AgricScience. “Our different strengths in science and business really complements how we run our business,” says Monique.

They chose farming as their career as they love working outdoors and with animals. “We love the opportunities to learn more, through formal learning and from the older generation of farmers,” says John. “It was also our choice to bring our family up on the farm, with space, animals and Monique at home full-time.”

“We are proud that we are progressing through the industry and raising a young family at the same time,” say the couple.

The couple say their ultimate goal is to find the right balance, that provides enough income, growth and family time. “Whether this be through land ownership or sharemilking more cows, we are unsure.”

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

The winner of the 2019 Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year category has held a passion for the outdoors and farming from a young age and always knew /he would make it his career.

Joe Kehely, who won $9,125 in prizes and five merit awards is currently Farm Manager for Craig and Jan Tomalin’s 106ha farm, milking 240 cows in Putaruru.

“I learnt all the aspects of dairy farming while growing up and began relief milking at age 12 and calf rearing to save for my first house,” explains Joe.

“I love being outdoors and I believe you can progress quickly through the industry if you’re willing to do the hard yards."

Joe believes one of the strengths of the business lies in the strong communication that exists between him and his wife Danielle. “We work very well as a couple, day in and day out. It makes our team so much stronger and the farm easier to run.

This is the third year Joe, aged 21 years, had entered the awards, doing so to reflect on his personal performance throughout the season. “It’s a great opportunity to look at how we can improve our on-farm performance and help our employers achieve more with their business.”

Morrinsville Farm Manager Daisy Higgs, aged 23 years, was second in the Dairy Manager competition, winning $3,800 in prizes and one merit award. She works on Gavin and Maree Haddon’s 91ha, 300-cow farm.

Daisy holds a Bachelor of Agriculture and Animal Science from Massey University. “I wanted a career that involved the care of animals and working outside and the agriculture industry is an attractive option with so many career opportunities.”

“I have fallen in love with farming,” Daisy says. “I love being outside, being active, working with animals and seeing the results through improved health or mating results. No day is the same.”

24-year-old Morrinsville Farm Manager Gursimran Singh Jhalli placed third and won $2,775 in prizes. Gursimran works on Andrew and Michael Moir’s 85ha Tatuanui farm, milking 232 cows.

This is the first time Gursimran has entered the Awards and he has relished the opportunities to learn and meet other experienced dairy farmers. “It has allowed me to look at myself, compare with other experienced farmers and improve where needed.”

The 2019 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year, Matt Dawson, loves farming and has never considered any other career.

“I grew up on a dairy farm and always helped with calf rearing and young stock as well as relief milking. I really enjoy being able to work outside most of the day and like the physical work as it keeps me fit,” he says.

“It also allows me to use my brain by doing feed budgeting, animal health, mating management and staff management. Farming consists of so many different jobs, no day is the same and I get to work with animals, machinery and technology all on the same job.

The 21-year-old counts gaining his PrimaryITO qualifications as both a challenge and one of his biggest successes. “It’s been a big challenge for me and I’m really proud of all my qualifications. It’s not easy to get all my assignments in on-time while working long days.”

Matt is Assistant Manager for Neville Henderson on his 229ha, 620-cow property at Horsham Downs and won $6,550 in prizes and one merit award.

The next farming milestone for Matt and his wife Tayla is to begin their first lower-order sharemilking position, which has been a goal since he began farming.

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee competition was 19-year-old Farm Assistant Crystal Scown who won $3,050 in prizes and one merit award.

Crystal is enthusiastic and passionate about the dairy industry. “I’m hard-working and never give up,” she says. “I work around every obstacle to get the job done.”

She counts being a member of the 2019 Jersey NZ Youth team that won the Holstein Youth Show at the Australia International Dairy Week as one of her biggest successes in her career to date.

Crystal works on Euan Reeve’s 260ha, 370-cow Waitomo property.

Third place in the Dairy Trainee competition went to 24-year-old Herd Manager Jonathan McBride, winning $1,400 in prizes. He works on Matt and Laura Clausen’s 50ha, 154-cow Hamilton farm.

The Waikato Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on 03 April 2019 at 24 Prendergast Road, RD1, Tokoroa where Waikato Share Farmers of the Year, Marc and Nia Jones, contract milk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Joe Kehely and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Matt Dawson. 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 – Marc and Nia Jones
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Sarah and Aidan Stevenson
• Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Marc and Nia Jones
• Honda Farm Safety, Health & Biosecurity Award – Marc and Nia Jones
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Sarah & Aidan Stevenson
• Meridian Farm Environment Award – Monique & John Dickson
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Monique & John Dickson
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Sarah & Aidan Stevenson

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
• Pioneer Most Promising Entrant Award – Jen Hodgson
• Staples Rodway Employee Engagement Award – Kendall Belton
• Blackman Spargo Rural Law Ltd Leadership Award – Joe Kehely
• ADM Feed Management Award – Joe Kehely
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Joe Kehely
• Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Joe Kehely
• Primary ITO Power Play Award – Daisy Higgs
• Westpac Personal Planning & Financial Management Award – Joe Kehely

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
• I.S Dam Lining Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Kevin Arenhold
• Farm Right Farming Knowledge Award – Matt Dawson
• Waikato Farmers Trust Community & Industry Involvement Award – Georga Sanders
• Blue Grass Contracting Communication & Engagement Award – Arsh Bhardwaj
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Crystal Scown

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