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Career Changes Clean-up in Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Awards

Under Embargo Until

11pm, March 7

Career Changes Clean-up in Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Awards

The three major winners in the 2015 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards had all switched careers to dairy farming in recent years.

The 2015 Auckland/Hauraki Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Evan and Jan Billington had been in the New Zealand Police and teaching until seven years ago, while the region’s Farm Manager of the Year, James Foote, had been a professional rugby player, and the 2015 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Trainee of the Year, Royce King, was a plumber and gas fitter.

The group were announced winners at the 2015 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards, held at the Indian Hall at Pukekohe last night [March 7].

“It’s really interesting how people that have come to the industry from other careers apply themselves and make rapid progress,” Regional Managers James Courtman and Adele Archer say. “It just goes to show there is plenty of information and opportunities available to those keen to prosper in the dairy industry.”

The 2015 Auckland/Hauraki Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Evan and Jan Billington, were runaway winners – claiming the title as well as winning five merit awards.

The Billingtons, who won $14,330 in prizes, are 50% sharemilking 680 cows on two properties at Ngatea for Ken and Pat Jones. Their goal is to continue sharemilking and to grow their business as opportunities present.

“We want to build our equity to a level where we can take advantage of any future business opportunities. We are realistic as to what these may be given we have entered the industry later than most, however we believe the end goal of farm ownership is achievable and we have a plan in place to achieve that.”

The couple say their staff and operating a simple grass-based system are two key factors to their successful business.

“We have been able to mould a really positive team of staff and have involved them in our seasonal plans for the business from the beginning. By providing competitive salaries, a flexible roster, on-going training and some fun along the way, we have been able to retain key staff, which is a real strength for us.”

The couple are aged 46 and 48 years and have three young adult and teenage children.

Thames 50% sharemilkers Mathew and Jemma Morrissey were placed second in the Auckland/Hauraki Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year contest, winning $6825. Third went to Te Aroha 50% sharemilkers Thomas and Jemima Bebbington, winning $4250 in prizes.

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

After 10 years of semi-professional rugby in New Zealand and overseas, the 2015 Auckland/Hauraki Farm Manager of the Year, James Foote, has turned his attention to dairy farming with success.

In his fourth season, Mr Foote is contract milking 425 cows at Miranda for Russell and Ces Evans. He won $8400 in prizes.

Aged 30 years, he had entered the awards for the first time to gain feedback from the judges, and to help him better understand his business.

Married to Louise and with two pre-schoolers, Mr Foote says planning, implementing and monitoring are strengths, as well as the partnership with his wife. “Louise and I are working together and heading in the same direction to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.”

He says the couple aims to go 50% sharemilking in 2016.

The runner-up in the region’s farm manager contest went to Paeroa farm manager Eoin O’Mahony, who won $5300 in prizes. Third place went to Tuakau contract milker Michael McCormick, winning $3575.

The dairy awards has helped the 2015 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Trainee of the Year, Royce King, improve his farming skills and lift his confidence.

It was the second time Mr King had entered the awards, this time coming away with the title and $5045 in prizes.

Aged 26 years, he is 2IC milking 530 cows for an equity partnership, Springfield Farming, at Paeroa. Having grown up on a dairy farm, Mr Royce gained his Plumbing and Gas Fitting Certificate and worked as a plumber, gas fitter and drain layer for five years before entering dairying nearly three years ago.

Married to Shelliegh, the couple plan to progress to a manager’s position or contract milking. They are also awaiting the arrival of their second son.

The runner-up in the dairy trainee contest was Huntly 2IC Zara Cosh, winning $1500. Paparimu farm assistant Oliver Milne placed third, winning $680 in prizes.

Auckland/Hauraki Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Evan and Jan Billington, will host a field day on April 1, while Farm Manager of the Year, James Foote, will host a field day on the Miranda farm he manages on March 25. Further details on the winners and field days can be found on

Sharemilker/Equity Farmer Merit Awards:

• DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Evan & Jan Billington

• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Jeremy & Alana Baldwin

• Federated Farmers of New Zealand Leadership Award – Thomas & Jemima Bebbington

• Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – Evan & Jan Billington

• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Evan & Jan Billington

• Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Jeremy & Alana Baldwin

• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Evan & Jan Billington

• Triplejump Risk Management Award – Ben Langford

• Westpac Business Performance Award – Evan & Jan Billington

Farm Manager Merit Awards:

• Williams Moopoo Solutions Environment Award – Eoin O’Mahony

• Nick Hoogeveen and Associates Leadership Award – Eoin O’Mahony

• Fonterra Best Practice Award – Brian Karl

• New Zealand Farm Source Farm Management Award – Michael McCormick

• Primary ITO Human Resource Management Award – James Foote

• Westpac Financial Planning and Management Award – James Foote

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

• Campbell Tyson Most Promising New Entrant – Brett Stubbington

• Franklin Vets Farming Knowledge Award – James Doidge

• Blackman Spargo Leadership Award – Emilio Bargiacchi

• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – James Doidge

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