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Natural Progression for West Coast/Top of the South Winners

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11pm, March 23

Natural Progression for West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Awards Winners

It was a natural progression for Greymouth’s Kelvin and Heather McKay to take out the 2015 West Coast/Top of the South Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year title – the couple were last year’s runners-up and placed third in 2013.

Kelvin and Heather McKay were the major winners at the 2015 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards at Shantytown last night , winning $7100 in prizes. The other big winners were Thomas and Hannah Oats, the region’s 2015 Farm Managers of the Year, and Danny Mitchell, the 2015 Dairy Trainee of the Year.

“Entering the competition made us look closely at all aspects of our business,” the McKay’s said. “It has made us focus more on what it is we want to achieve and identify areas of our farming operation which we can improve.”

The couple have been equity farm managers milking 185 cows for New River Farming at Camerons, near Greymouth, for nearly three years. Their goal is to buy out the farm’s partners to gain full ownership within 10 years.

Mr McKay, aged 40 years, has been in the industry since becoming a farm cadet on leaving school, while Mrs McKay, 36, holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Parks, Recreation and Tourist Management and works off-farm, although she is involved in the financial and planning aspects of the business.

They say they complement each other and are hard-working and determined. “Where we have set goals we work together to strive towards them. We like to challenge ourselves and seek continual improvement.”

Murchison 50% sharemilkers Jon and Vickie Nicholls were placed second in the sharemilker/equity farmer contest winning $3860 in prizes, and Westport 25% sharemilkers Damian Kohrs and Tiffany Hampton were third, claiming prizes worth $2100.

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.

The 2015 West Coast/Top of the South Farm Managers of the Year, Thomas and Hannah Oats, love what they do and work well together.

The young couple – they are aged 22 and 20 years – are currently contract milking 350 cows for Mr Oats’ parents, Richard and Wendy Oats, at Reefton. They won $5000 in prizes.

It was the second time they had entered the awards. “Entering the competition has made us look at our farming system and see where we could improve.”

The couple aim to progress to 50% sharemilking within two years and have the ultimate aim of farm ownership.

Second place in the farm manager contest went to Blackball contract milkers Stephane and Sophie Rossignol who won $3000, while Takaka farm manager Alice Reilly was third for the second year running, winning $1750.

The 2015 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year, Danny Mitchell, has achieved his short term goal by winning the title and collecting $4550 in prizes.

Mr Mitchell’s next goal is to progress to a manager’s position while longer term goals are to go contract milking and sharemilking.

He is currently a farm assistant for Richard and Simon Tripe, milking 400 cows once-a-day all year round at Koromiko, near Blenheim.

The 24-year-old tried his hand in the timber and meat industries before switching to farming. “It was during an off-season period, when I was working as a freezer hand, that I tried farming and I never returned to the works after I discovered my love for farming.”

Mr Mitchell has been busy studying through Primary ITO and was encouraged by his co-ordinator to enter the competition. “I thought it would be a good chance to meet other like-minded people and network with other farmers. I also thought it would be beneficial for my career if I do well.”

Runner-up in the region’s dairy trainee competition was Takaka farm assistant Stewart Watson (Miss Reilly’s partner) winning $2250 in prizes, and third went to Tapawera, near Nelson, farm assistant Gary Omlo, winning $1250.

West Coast/Top of the South Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Kelvin and Heather McKay, will host a field day on April 14, while Farm Managers of the Year, Thomas and Hannah Oats, will host a field day on the Reefton farm they manage on April 8. Further details on the winners and field days can be found on

Sharemilker/Equity Farmer Merit Awards:

• DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Kelvin & Heather McKay

• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Kelvin & Heather McKay

• Federated Farmers of New Zealand Leadership Award – Jon & Vickie Nicholls

• Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – Kelvin & Heather McKay

• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Jon & Vickie Nicholls

• Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Kelvin & Heather McKay

• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Matt & Hannah Nicholls

• Triplejump Risk Management Award – Gareth & Jenny Evans

• Westpac Business Performance Award – Jon & Vickie Nicholls

Farm Manager Merit Awards:

• Ospri New Zealand Environment Award – Thomas & Hannah Oats

• Gordon Handy Machinery Leadership Award – Brendon Walker

• Fonterra Best Practice Award – Alice Reilly

• New Zealand Farm Source Farm Management Award – Alice Reilly

• Primary ITO Human Resource Management Award – Stephane & Sophie Rossignol

• Westpac Financial Planning and Management Award – Jeremy Madely

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

• Cuffs Chartered Accounts and Business Advisors Encouragement Award – Lydia Freeman

• Reliance Feeds Farming Knowledge Award – Stewart Watson

• Essential Nutrition Leadership Award – Danny Mitchell

• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Danny Mitchell

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