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Strong, Balanced Partnership Wins 2024 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards

The 2024 New Zealand Share Farmers of the Year are described as an incredibly driven couple who are both farmers in their own right.

Will Hinton and Kali Rangiawha from Manawatū were named the 2024 New Zealand Share Farmers of the Year, Northland’s Kieran McCahon became the 2024 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and Kirwyn Ellis from Waikato was announced the 2024 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. They shared prizes from a pool worth over $200,000.

The winners were announced at a Gala Dinner held at Coronet Peak, Queenstown on Saturday night, in front of more than 470 people.

James and Debbie Stewart from Manawatū were the recipients of the Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award, while Paul and Sarah Koopal from Central Plateau won the CowManager cow monitoring system for three years.

Share Farmer category head judge, Michele Cranefield from ANZ says Will and Kali impressed the judges with the strength of their partnership and in the way they balance each other.

“They are a very good team and one could pick up where the other left off,” she says. “They are impressive with numbers and are extremely passionate about the dairy industry, what they're doing and how they're doing it.”

Born in the UK, Will holds a BSc Agricultural Business Management from Reading University and a National Diploma in Agriculture from Lackham College. He built a farming partnership with his dad comprising 500 sheep and 30 cows.

After travelling the world as a shearer, he landed in New Zealand, where he worked as a farm consultant and data analyst for two and a half years. He met Kali who had realised dairy farming was her future while relief milking to fund her university studies.

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Kali has worked her way through the industry from farm assistant through to the couple’s current role as contract milkers for Tim and Victoria Gorton on their 350-cow, 113ha Halcombe farm.

The judges noted that while Will is highly educated and technical, he can convert the technical education into practical applications.

Fellow judge Robert Ervine from Rangiotu, says he learned things from Will and Kali’s presentation. “I consider myself a good grass farmer, but Will explained things so well and put technical terms into good practical English, giving clear and simple demonstrations.”

The judges noted that through the process of the Awards, Will and Kali discovered a creek on their farm, which was like a dry riverbed and now plan to plant the creek to avoid nutrient loss.

“Will is a quick thinker, enabling him to make fast decisions and apply his knowledge to be more efficient,” they said. “He understands soil types and he farms to the abilities or limitations so the pasture has the right nutrients on the right place.”

“Will isn’t an academic who's gone farming, he gets in and does the work. As a couple, they are practical, innovative and forward-thinking.

The judges were also impressed by Will and Kali’s community involvement, noting that when they see a need or gap, they step up to fill it.

“When their local community couldn’t afford a school bus, Will organized a ‘Shear-a-thon’ to raise funds, and when Kali realized there was no AI technician in their area, she trained to become one.”

“They are constantly looking for ways to make positive change, both on and off farm.”

To win the national title and in excess of $55,000 in prizes, the first-time entrants demonstrated strengths in all areas of farming and also won two merit awards: the Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award and the Meridian Environmental Sustainability Award.

The judges noted all national share farmer finalists were very strong across the board, with knowledge and understanding of the environment and greenhouse gases at a high standard.

“It was a very tight race this year – we are so impressed with all the people we met across all the regions. If that’s sign of who’s coming through the industry, the industry is in good hands.”

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors CowManager, DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda, LIC, Meridian, Ravensdown, and Trelleborg, along with industry partners DairyNZ, MediaWorks and Rural Training Solutions NZ.

The Runners-up in the Share Farmer of the Year competition are Waikato farmers Logan and Sian Dawson, who the judges describe as change makers – “they are continuously looking for more efficient ways and accurate ways to do things.”

Logan and Sian are equity partners and 50/50 share milkers for Jim and Sue van der Poel on their 333ha, 1350-cow farm.

They won two merit awards: the Federated Farmers Leadership Award and the Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award and over $28,000 in total prizes.

The judges were impressed by Logan’s development of spreadsheets and processes which are now used across other farms in the business and his use of GPS on feed bins which is monitored daily.

“Logan and Sian are on a large-scale, high input system 5 farm and are guiding a lot of people, adding another level of complexity,” notes judge Steve Canton from DairyNZ.

“Through the use of technology and careful monitoring, they are really getting the most out of what they do.”

Central Plateau couple Paul and Sarah Koopal placed third in the Share Farmer category, winning the ASB Business Performance Award, the DairyNZ People and Culture Award and nearly $17,000 in prizes.

The judges describe the Koopals as a polished, organised and structured couple who are well-rounded farmers using all the tools and technology available to them in the industry.

They are contract milkers for Anne and Stewart Koopal on their 204ha, 544-cow farm and won $17,295 and four merit awards.

Paul and Sarah’s strength in human resources stood out and as well as their strength in creating and establishing strong relationships.

“They are very passionate about people and a number of their previous staff members have won awards or are farm owners,” the judges noted. “Paul and Sarah are so proud of these achievements and they maintain connections and friendships with those people.”

The 2024 Dairy Manager of the Year is Kieran McCahon from Northland who stood out as a an intelligent, well-educated farmer who is passionate about adding value to the New Zealand dairy industry as a whole.

The judges noted Kieran is very well educated and has brought that technical skill to his home farm while identifying the differences between the technical detail to the practicality of farming.

“He is passionate about people and took us on his journey into practical farming and challenges in the first season for him,” says judge Renee Rooney from Lake Brunner. “He is very authentic.”

The judges said Kieran is extremely well-rounded in all aspects of farming. “He’s farming in quite a challenging environment and was able to articulate strategies he has in place that mitigates risk, whilst still trying new things.”

Head judge Jack Meehan from ANZ noted that Kieran aspires to use his theoretical knowledge to help others by mentoring or advising.

Kieran holds a Bachelor of Agriscience majoring in Agriculture and a Masters in Management, majoring in Agribusiness. His thesis was completed at the Northern Agricultural Research Farm (NARF) near Dargaville, writing up a trial they’d been running on farm systems over the previous three years.

The first-time entrant won the Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award and nearly $17,000 in prizes.

The judges observed that Kieran is a thinker who gives considered, thorough answers and is knowledge of current topics such as greenhouse gases was high.

Kieran was strong across the board and demonstrated best practice in all areas of the farming operation and embraces wearable technology and innovation.

“Kieran is passionate about the dairy industry and wears his heart on his sleeve,” says judge Janine Swansson from DairyNZ. “He understands the need to get off-farm and be social and is involved with his community through Young Farmers.”

The judges were impressed with the overall high calibre and diversity of all Dairy Manager national finalists. “The finalists may have had different backgrounds, ages, experiences, systems and attitudes however they are all passionate about the dairy industry and the future that they want to be part of.”

The Dairy Manager runner-up, Teagan Gray from Auckland/Hauraki, won nearly $7,000 in prizes.

The judges describe Teagan as someone who had great pride in her farm and possesses very high-standards.

She is a farm manager on Neil and Glenda Gray’s 160ha Thames farm, milking 478 cows and is in her second season as farm manager, beginning work on the farm in 2016 as a farm assistant.

The judges observed Teagan’s pride in being the fifth generation of the Gray family to manage the farm, and that she is proud to be a woman sole farming.

“She’s embracing technology and is absolutely nailing the use of it to inform her decisions,” said Janine. “She constantly analyses and continually focuses on the health of her cows – their health and welfare is at the core of all her decision-making.”

Teagan has furthered her education through various courses and has completed a coaching course, enabling her to share her passion and knowledge for the industry through coaching other farmers.

The 33-year-old holds a Bachelor of Agriscience from Massey University and believes the dairy industry could do better with accepting females into high management roles.

“Teagan had a great understanding of how decisions she makes contribute to the overall farm financial performance,” said head judge Jack Meehan. “She has a clear plan for her future and how she is going to get there.”

Sarah Avery from Taranaki placed third and won almost $6,000 in prizes. She is farm manager for Carl and Shey Kowalewski on their 130ha property, milking 300 cows at Midhurst.

The judges believe Sarah is a great young leader who is passionate about cows and pasture. “She’s extremely driven, and already has finance sorted for her next step in the dairy industry and a job offer on the table.”

“It was refreshing to meet someone who was focused on learning the basics and getting them right,” said Janine. “She has a very supportive current employer who has helped her grow and she is really enjoying the journey.”

The 2024 Dairy Trainee of the Year was awarded to Kirwyn Ellis from Waikato who is described by the judges as a relaxed, thoughtful and mature young man who ‘soaks up knowledge like a sponge’ from those around him.

The Dairy Trainee judges say Kirwyn has a genuine care for those in the community around him and takes his role as kaitiakitanga very seriously.

“Kirwyn has soaked up all the knowledge from those around him and now wants to follow that up with some formal qualifications from PrimaryITO,” says judge Johanna Wood from Manawatū. “He felt it was important to have the practical understanding before he learnt the theoretical.”

“Kirwyn is a strong team player and his heart is with his community,” says head judge Mark Laurence from DairyNZ. “He was a consistent top achiever across all categories and I’ve got no doubt he will represent the industry very well with his new title.”

The judges noted Kirwyn was methodical thinker and can articulate effectively. “He has the ability to communicate with others very clearly, both receiving information and passing it on.”

Kirwyn is herd manager for Hamish and Sheree Germann on their 130ha property at Pirongia milking 475 cows.

“He's got a very good work life balance and is into biking and rugby and lots of other outdoor activities,” notes judge Enda Hawe from Rakaia. “He has very supportive owners that give him the time off to do these activities.”

He won the Federated Farmers General Farming Knowledge Award, the DeLaval Community and Industry Involvement Award and the Craigmore Farms Best Video Award, along with nearly $12,000 in prizes.

The judges say it is obvious Kirwyn is a down-to-earth farmer who genuinely cares for everyone around him. “He’s got pride in the industry and he makes you have pride in the industry,” says Enda “He’s a very good role model for the industry.”

“He stood out clearly amongst a group of excellent finalists.”

The judges say the Dairy Trainee national finalists come from a variety of backgrounds and have faced different challenges.

The Dairy Trainee runner-up, Monique Radford from Canterbury/North Otago won the Ecolab Personal Growth and Development Award along with $6,000 in prizes.

The 22-year-old grew up on a dairy farm in Taranaki and holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science from Massey University.

“Monique comes from a family farm and by moving to a bigger farm in Canterbury she is expanding her horizons and knowledge of the industry,” says Johanna. “Her mum is her role model within the dairy industry.”

The judges describe Monique as very knowledgeable with a good work life balance. “She has intellectual horsepower.”

Community involvement is important for Monique who is involved in netball, Young Farmers and the Jersey Youth Council.

The judges noted Monique is well-liked by her peers and speaks highly of the dairy industry. “She’ll be an excellent ambassador for the industry and we have no doubt we will hear her name frequently in the future.”

Third placegetter is Isabella Panettiere from Manawatū who is herd manager on Fonterra’s 255ha, 630-cow Longburn farm.

Isabella won $3,000 in prizes and the DairyNZ Practical Skills merit award through her strong practical skills and knowledge.

Isabella holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Animal Science from Massey University and completed the LIC Artificial Insemination course. She is currently studying towards PrimaryITO Level 3 Livestock Feeding.

The judges describe Isabella as a ‘surprise package’ who is new to the industry and farming life.

“It’s brilliant to see someone who wasn’t raised on a farm succeed in dairying,” they said. “She has a thirst for knowledge and is supported by her farm employers.”

Head Judge Mark Laurence said the judges were impressed by Isabella's enthusiasm, skills and knowledge and her quiet confidence.

MAJOR WINNERS AND PLACEGETTERS AND MERIT AWARD WINNERS

2024 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year:

  • Winner - Will Hinton and Kali Rangiawha, Manawatū
  • Runner-Up - Logan and Sian Dawson, Waikato
  • Third - Paul and Sarah Koopal, Central Plateau

Merit Awards

Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award: Will Hinton and Kali Rangiawha

ASB Business Performance Award: Paul & Sarah Koopal

DairyNZ - People & Culture Award: Paul & Sarah Koopal

Ecolab Total Farm Hygiene Award: Alan da Veiga

Federated Farmers Leadership Award: Logan & Sian Dawson

Honda Farm Safety, Health & Biosecurity Award: Logan & Sian Dawson

LIC Animal Wellbeing, Recording & Productivity Award: Michael & Cheryl Shearer

Meridian Environmental Sustainability Award: Will Hinton & Kali Rangiawha

Trelleborg Interview Award: Cameron Smith and Nicole Hanning-Smith

2024 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year:

• Winner- Kieran McCahon, Northland

• Runner-up- Teagan Gray, Auckland/Hauraki

• Third- Sarah Avery, Taranaki

Merit Awards

Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award- Kieran McCahon

DeLaval Livestock Management Award- Andrew Hazlett

Fonterra Dairy Management Award- Trinity Jackson

LIC Interview Award- Trinity Jackson

CowManager Personal Planning & Financial Management Award- George King

DairyNZ - People & Leadership Award- Ben Purua

Meridian Environmental Sustainability Award- Jaspreet Singh

2024 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year:

• Winner- Kirwyn Ellis, Waikato

• Runner-up- Monique Radford, Canterbury/North Otago

• Third- Isabella Panettiere, Manawatū

Merit Awards

Ecolab Personal Growth & Development Award Monique Radford

DairyNZ Practical Skills Award Isabella Panettiere

DeLaval Communication and Industry Involvement Award Kirwyn Ellis

Federated Farmers General Farming Knowledge Award Kirwyn Ellis

Craigmore Farms Best Video Award Kirwyn Ellis

2024 Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award:

James and Debbie Stewart, Dairylands, Manawatū

CowManager Experience Award:

Paul and Sarah Koopal, Central Plateau

© Scoop Media

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