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Winners of 2017 Northland Awards keep it simple

Winners of 2017 Northland Dairy Industry Awards keep it simple

The 2017 Northland Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners are Kaiwaka locals who are fans of keeping it simple on the farm.

Niall and Delwyn McKenzie say after farming on large and smaller farms in Northland, Australia and the South Island, they love living in Northland, where people appreciate the Keep It Simple Systems (KISS) that they run. “Delwyn was born and raised on the same road we live on now. We never intended to live back here, but we are very happy in Kaiwaka,” says Niall. “Remember, happy wife, happy life!”

The couple were named the 2017 Northland Share Farmers of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at the Forum North Whangarei last night, and won $8,333 in prizes. The other major winners were the 2017 Northland Dairy Manager of the Year Greg Imeson, and the 2017 Northland Dairy Trainee of the Year, Blake Anderson.

The McKenzies won the 2013 Northland Farm Manager of Year and received three merit awards that year also, placing third in the National competition. “The Dairy Industry Awards have given us the information and skills to become better farmers,” say the couple.

They believe their strengths lie in low-cost milk production with a focus on sustainability. “We see ourselves as caretakers of the land. We are very lucky to be able to make the most of opportunities that are given to us by our awesome farm owners, who encourage us to strive for success and profitability,” say the couple.

The McKenzies are 50% Sharemilkers for Rodger and Jan Comrie, on their 100ha farm, milking 230 cows. Both Niall (38) and Delwyn have one paper left to complete a Diploma in Agribusiness. When not working on the farm, Delwyn (36) is a relief primary school teacher.

The couple would like to retain their current sharemilking position, purchasing the farm by June 2021.

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

Winner of the 2017 Northland Dairy Manager of the Year competition is 34-year-old Greg Imeson, who entered the awards to see where he sat amongst industry peers. “I hope this experience will assist me with securing a future sharemilking position. It’s been fantastic to meet mentors and role models in the industry,” says Greg. He won $8,450 in prizes.

Married to Janelle and with two children aged three and two, Greg holds a degree in structural engineering from the University of Canterbury, however after working as a senior structural consulting engineer in Auckland, London and Sydney for 10 years, he returned to the home farm in 2014.

“We have purchased a 200 cow farm in Poroti and take over 1st June 2017. Our goals are to successfully farm this and reduce our debt whilst spending quality time with family and friends,” says Greg.

“I was a latecomer to the industry, however I always wanted to be a dairy farmer. Dad suggested I get a degree, travel the world, find a girl, and then if I still wanted to go farming, then I could. That was sound advice.”

Greg believes the strengths of the business lie in it being a split-calving farm. “We do everything twice a year which accelerates learning – mating, calving, dry off, young stock rearing and so on,” explains Greg.

“The owner also gives me full control and the responsibility of decision-making. He backs me 100% which gives me the freedom to run the farm as I see fit. This has given me the confidence to progress further in the dairy industry and I hope to continue to be actively involved in the development of the industry.

30-year-old Hikurangi farm manager Balkaran Singh Sran, placed second in the Dairy Manager competition, winning $4,825 in prizes. Balkaran works on Jo and Geoff Crawford’s 1000-cow, 360ha property. He placed third in the 2015 Northland Farm Manager competition and says that was a fantastic experience, which helped him learn more about farming and meet new people.

“Farming isn’t my goal, it’s my dream,” says Balkaran. “I want to be a farm owner.”

Third in the Dairy Manager Competition was herd manager Jared Dean, who won $3,775 in prizes. Jared (27) works on Murray and Helen Jagger’s Whangarei property and believes a resilient and passionate farming system that strives to be productive, forms a strong foundation on which to manage a business.

“The farm owners are accommodating and trusting of me. They have given me the tools and opportunity to grow and develop within the industry,” says Jared. “The owners clearly value their staff and they put time and effort into upskilling staff members and giving adequate time-off to keep staff motivated and enthusiastic.”

The winner of the 2017 Northland Dairy Trainee of the Year competition entered for the experience and to meet new people.

Blake Anderson’s farming goals include managing his own dairy farm. The 19-year-old is farm assistant on Carlton Smyth’s 420-cow, 180ha property in Kaiwaka. He won $3,370 in prizes.

Farms belonging to Murray and Marcelle Douglas have produced both the runner-up and third placegetter in the Northland Dairy Trainee competition. Farm Assistant Sarah Powell, aged 19 years, placed second in the Dairy Trainee competition, and won $1,650 in prizes. Sarah works on Murray and Marcelle Douglas’ 80ha Titoki property milking 230 cows. Erin Mitchell was third. The 22-year-old is a senior farm assistant on the Douglas’ 320ha Titoki farm, milking 750 cows.

The Northland Dairy Industry Awards field day will be held on 21 March 2017 at 450 Settlement Road RD 2 Kaiwaka where Northland Share Farmers of the Year, Niall and Delwyn McKenzie, sharemilk. The day will begin at 10.30am and end at 1.30pm. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Greg Imeson and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Blake Anderson. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:

• Northland Regional Council Most Promising Entrant Award – Balkaran Singh Sran
• IC Motor Group Engagement Award – Cassandra Campbell & Troy Thomson
• North Tec Leadership Award – Balkaran Singh Sran
• Fonterra Farm Source Dairy Management Award – Greg Imeson
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award - Cassandra Campbell & Troy Thomson
• PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Greg Imeson
• Fonterra Farm Source Feed Management Award – Martyn Davies
• Westpac Financial Management & Planning Award – Greg Imeson

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

• Bryant Tractors 1983 LTD Most Promising Entrant Award - Ange Cook
• Carrfields Livestock Farming Knowledge Award – Sarah Powell
• Whitelaw Weber Communication & Engagement Award – Sarah Powell
• Ray White Rural Community & Industry Involvement Award – Erin Mitchell
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award - Blake Anderson

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