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2020 Northland Dairy Industry Award Winners

The 2020 Northland Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners say farming is more than just a career for them, it’s a passion.

Charlie and Emma Adair were named the 2020 Northland Share Farmers of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at Semenoff Stadium in Whangarei on Saturday night and won $7,750 in prizes plus four merit awards. The other major winners were the 2020 Northland Dairy Manager of the Year Sheena Waru, and the 2020 Northland Dairy Trainee of the Year Poutama Toto.

The Adairs were runners-up in the same category last year and believe the Awards programme allowed them to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their business.

“We’ve looked at every aspect of our business in such detail,” they say. “The process allowed us to see the full picture of what we had and how we would achieve our future equity growth targets.”

In 2015 the couple moved to New Zealand from the UK where Charlie managed a 300-cow dairy farm. “We saw the opportunities to progress here in comparison to the very few opportunities that arose in the UK,” says Charlie (25).

“We now contract milk, manage the run-off for that farm and have a lease-to-buy agreement on another property about 10 minutes away. We would never have been able to achieve that in the UK, especially in such a short amount of time.”

Creating a new life on the other side of the world and learning the New Zealand way of farming provided unique challenges for the Adairs, as did realising the challenges of the weather variances of Northland farming.

“Being under Notice of Directions for MBovis twice and slaughtering 137 animals (who all proved negative) as a result was also very challenging,” says Charlie.

The Adairs are proud of the equity growth made over the past 4 years, which has exceeded their original targets more than they every thought possible.

“We’ve made exceptionally quick progression through the industry since arriving in New Zealand in 2015,” says Emma (24). “Charlie’s first role was as a 2IC in Rotorua, while I relief milked, then we jointly managed our current farm during the 2017/18 season.”

“Gaining residency in 2018 has enabled us to begin contract milking here.” The Adairs contract milk for Dean and Anne-Maree Adams on their 275ha, 800-cow Whangarei farm. Charlie holds a Diploma in Agriculture (UK), while Emma is completing a Level 5 Agribusiness Diploma.

The couple believe their strengths lie in the scale and infrastructure of the farm that allows them to take advantage of other opportunities that arise. “This is only possible with the support of our farm owner,” says Charlie. “I particularly enjoy animal breeding and pasture management and love seeing the results of improving performance on-farm.”

“The scale and technology we have allows us to focus more on our business rather than working in our business.”

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

Runners-up in the Northland Share Farmer of the Year category were first-time entrants Hamish and Ella Ferguson who won $3,250 in prizes plus two merit awards.

The Okaihau couple are 20% equity partners with Peter Ferguson, on the 195ha, 600-cow property and entered the Awards to create direction for themselves and set specific farm and personal goals.

Hamish (34) grew up in Auckland however was drawn to his Uncle’s farm every school holiday and has now been in the dairy industry for 17 years. 33-year-old Ella moved to New Zealand from England in 2006. She spent seven years as an equine vet nurse before catching the dairy farming bug from Hamish. “I love the technical and science side of farming.”

The couple have found being involved in a structurally challenged equity partnership for most of their farming career an on-going challenge. “We haven’t overcome it yet however hopefully our move to Northland will put us in a better financial position and provide us with more options and opportunities.”

The Fergusons consider the move north as one of their successes. “We’ve ended up in a great farming area with excellent staff, a good farm and lots of further potential.”

“We are comfortable with farming through any challenges that we can’t control, like weather and financial markets,” they say. “As a couple, we’re an asset to our business. We’re proactive, progressive and want to do the best for the business.”

Third place in the 2020 Northland Share Farmer category went to José Hamber and Kirby Wilson who are 30% variable order sharemilking on Stephen and Elaine Cullen’s 120ha Helensville property, milking 250 cows. They won $2,250 in prizes and one merit award.

José (29) was born and raised in Auckland and knew from an early age he wanted to pursue a career in the diary industry. He holds a Bachelor of Ag Science and began work as a dairy assistant in the Waikato before moving to Taranaki to contract milk.

26-year-old Kirby gained her Bachelor of Science majoring in Agriculture through Massey University then moved into rural professional roles.

The couple admit that beginning in the industry with no prior dairy experience was challenging, as was moving to Northland from Taranaki with a 3-week-old baby.

“We’ve survived our first drought and are proud of our grade-free certificates and that we have overtaken many production records on different farms,” they say.

“We entered the Awards because we are very serious about our long-term goal of farm ownership,” says José. “We possess a strong desire and motivation to meet goals and succeed. With no family farms or support to back us, we have to get there on our own.”

Winner of the 2020 Northland Dairy Manager of the Year competition is 33-year-old Sheena Waru who is assistant manager of Chris and Jane Mitchell’s 195ha Opuawhanga property, milking 520 cows. She won $5750 in prizes plus two merit awards.

Sheena entered the Awards to step out of her comfort zone, take a risk and make the most of the challenge. “This is a personal achievement for me. By re-educating myself with PrimaryITO and DairyNZ support, I can be a positive example to my three children and show them that it’s never too late to try something new,” she explains.

Four years ago, Sheena was working in town and her husband William was farming. Their roles changed when William had a motorbike accident resulting in a traumatic brain injury.

“I took over the finances and continued relief milking to pay for our accommodation. Now I work alongside my husband, who manages the farm,” she says.

Sheena acknowledges the challenges of her husband’s past injuries meant she took on the head role at home and work.

“One of the biggest strengths of this business is our employer. It’s rare to find one who is so willing to help their employees to progress, who is a fantastic mentor and understands work, home and life situations.”

“The support offered to all team members by the owners is something I’ve never seen on any farm,” she says. “The owner and his family are amazing in any family circumstances.”

As a young mum, Sheena completed her education with the Correspondence School, a decision she is very proud of. “The struggle was real, but I have no regrets at all. It has made me who I am today,” she says.

Her education has continued with PrimaryITO and she has gained Level 3 in Dairy, the PrimaryITO Dedication Award and is currently studying towards Level 4 Apprenticeship.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity I was given by my employer as it has made me feel as if someone other than my family believes in me,” Sheena says. “Their support has given me a chance to not only feel needed and wanted but to show my knowledge and skills and realise my potential.”

Wellsford farm manager Fred Hohaia was runner-up in the Dairy Manager category, winning $2,500 in prizes and two merit awards. Fred works on Neil and Wendy Jones 500-cow, 225ha property for last year’s Northland and National Sharefarmers of the Year, Colin and Isabella Beazley.

After graduating at the top of his class from the Northland College Agricultural Academy, Fred (34), has continued to progress through the industry and enjoys the rewards that come from each challenge and the benefits that come through learning through adversity.

“I’m very proud I was runner-up in the Northland Dairy Manager category in 2018,” says Fred. “I’m employed by modern-thinking share farmers, who have given me insight into the future of dairy farming with regards to innovation and technology, health and safety, environmental sustainability and profit.”

Future farming goals for Fred and his partner Sarah include herd ownership and property investment. “I’ve been farming for a number of years now and still enjoy the challenges each season brings.”

“We are on a path to herd ownership through hard work and determination and the rewards are raising our young family in a lifestyle that teaches them good fundamentals for life.”

The Northland Dairy Trainee of the year is 22-year-old Poutama Toto, who is Farm Assistant on Terence and Suzanne Brocx’s 450-cow, 171ha property at Okaihau. He won $5,550 in prizes and one merit award.

The 22-year-old, who was runner-up in the 2019 Northland Dairy Trainee category, chose farming because he enjoys being hands-on, working outdoors and hard work.

“I love working with animals and enjoy all aspects of farming, whether it is milking cows, driving tractors or fencing. I love keeping busy.”

Poutama has gained PrimaryITO Milk Quality Level 1 and 2, Animal Husbandry and Pasture Management. Future farming goals include progressing into a farm manager’s role. “I’ll then enter the Awards as a manager!”

Runner-up in the Northland Dairy Trainee category was Reed Baker who is farm assistant on Barry Keller’s 258ha Dargaville property, milking 400 cows.

The 19-year-old was working for the same employer on his farm in Opotiki then made the move to Northland when the farm in Dargaville was purchased.

“I really enjoy the lifestyle and working with animals,” says Reed. “I’ve learnt a lot about running a farm and can now confidently look after our farm if our boss has to leave me to it.”

Tipene Hape was third. The 24-year-old is a Farm Assistant on Kevin Sidwell’s 190ha Kaiwaka farm, milking 440 cows. He won $1,250 in prizes. He was third in the same category in 2019.

“I’ve really enjoyed the peer-to-peer contact through the Awards and stepping outside my comfort zone,” says Tipene.

The Northland Dairy Industry Awards field day will be held on 30 March 2020 at 318 Puketitoi Road, Purua, Whangarei S/N 13241, where Northland Share Farmers of the Year Charlie and Emma Adair contract milk, beginning at 10.30am. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Sheena Waru and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Poutama Toto. 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 – Hamish and Ella Ferguson
  • Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award - Charlie and Emma Adair
  • Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Jared and Kelsi Dean
  • Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – Charlie and Emma Adair
  • LIC Recording and Productivity Award - Charlie and Emma Adair
  • Meridian Farm Environment Award – José Hamber and Kirby Wilson
  • Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Hamish and Ella Ferguson
  • Westpac Business Performance Award – Charlie and Emma Adair

Dairy Manager Merit Awards

  • Craigs Investment Partners Most Promising Entrant Award – Sarah Powell
  • Whitelaw Weber Employee Engagement Award – Sheena Waru
  • Webb Ross McNab Kilpatrick Leadership Award – Jared Sione Lauaki
  • GJ Gardner Homes Whangarei/Kaipara Feed Management Award – Fred Hohaia
  • DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Sarah Powell
  • Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Sheena Waru
  • PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Jared Sione Lauaki
  • Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award – Fred Hohaia

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards

  • Bryant Tractors 1983 Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Puoro Baker
  • Bell-Booth Ltd Farming Knowledge Award – Carmen Guy
  • Pacific Motor Group Community & Industry Involvement Award – Phoebe Simpson
  • Northland Fieldays Communication & Engagement Award – Reed Baker
  • DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Poutama Toto

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