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Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Award Winners Announced

The 2019 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners have found success through effective team work, increasing their skills and knowledge, and challenging themselves.

Ethan and Sarah Koch were named the 2019 Auckland/Hauraki Share Farmers of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at the Karaka Pavilion last night and won $12,900 in prizes and five merit awards. The other major winners were the 2019 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Manager of the Year Kyle Brennan, and the 2019 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Trainee of the Year, Rebecca Casidy.

Ethan and Sarah (both aged 28), have backgrounds in building and teaching, and were runners-up in the same category in 2018.

“Through entering the Awards, both in the Dairy Trainee and Sharefarmer categories, we have gained confidence to step outside our comfort zone and challenge ourselves,” they say.

“We have a greater understanding of our sharemilking business along with increased skills and knowledge. Our support network has grown through developing contacts with rural professionals and others who support our business.

The couple are 50/50 sharemilkers on Laurie and Ingrid Bylsma’s 82ha Onewhero farm, milking 200 cows. They are both proud of the record production for the farm in their first year of 50/50 sharemilking and increasing the genetic merit and value of their herd. “It’s a profitable business with significant returns on investment,” says Ethan.

Ethan and Sarah chose to leave their respective careers and make the move into the dairy industry as they felt it was a lifestyle that required hard work, but with many rewards. “There’s a variety and flexibility in work, and we both have a passion for animals and farming,” say the couple.

“We get to work outdoors in beautiful surroundings, and we have the ability to grow our business.

They believe one of their strengths is that they work as an effective team. “We have a complementary skillset and are on the same page as to where our business is headed,” they say. “We want to continue to grow our equity so that we are in a position to purchase our own farm.”

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

The winner of the 2019 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Manager of the Year competition is 25-year-old Kyle Brennan, who entered the awards for the second time to network, develop his career and to challenge himself again. He won $7,825 in prizes and four merit awards.

“I entered the Awards as a Trainee in the 2015/16 season and met so many people through the process. It challenged me to go further in my PrimaryITO studies, and to gain more on-farm experience which I could take into this year’s Awards as a farm manager.”

Kyle grew up around dairy farms and really enjoyed the outdoor lifestyle and working with animals. “It’s grown into a huge passion – my animals and the staff I work with have been major perks in my career,” he explains. “I always love to challenge myself, the farm and staff with new ways of becoming better at what we do and how we do it.”

Kyle has progressed through the industry since he began working as a farm assistant in 2014 and is currently Farm Manager on Balle Bro’s 950-cow, 316ha property at Mercer.

While his first year as manager was a hard, wet season which saw the property under water through autumn, Kyle is proud that this season they are expecting a record farm production/cow and kgms/ha. “We are well on our way to meet the 440,000kgms targets,” he says.

Time off-farm is important for both Kyle and his partner Caitlin, and they enjoy going to the Coromandel in their spare time, with Kyle also enjoying squash and trail-riding. “It’s a good way to clear the head and freshen up,” he says.

25-year-old Alex Voysey, placed second in the Dairy Manager competition, winning $3,943
in prizes and one merit award. The Farm Manager won the 2017 Auckland Hauraki Dairy Trainee competition.

“Entering the awards and winning definitely gave me more confidence. It showed me that I’m capable of being at the top of my game, and the recognition and networking was just incredible,” he says.

“I’ve been in the industry full-time for five years, however my passion for the dairy industry began as a child in England on my Grandfather’s farm,” he says. “For as long as I can remember I have wanted to work outdoors with animals. I love being hands-on with my work.”

Alex works on Landcorp Farming Ltd’s 149ha, 360-cow Ngatea farm and holds a long-term vision to own a farm. “To get there, I will save and build equity and transition through contract milking to sharemilker and eventually achieve the big goal of farm ownership.”

Auckland Hauraki Dairy Manager third place getter was Toby Greenhalgh who is 2IC for Syd Goodwright, on his 220ha Otaua farm, milking 600 cows. He won $2,025 in prizes and two merit awards.

“I entered the Awards because the visa criteria changed, meaning I was eligible to enter,” says Toby, who is originally from England. “It was a huge challenge to come to New Zealand when I didn’t know anyone here.”

Toby has always wanted a career within in the dairy industry and holds a Diploma of Agriculture (England). “I chose farming as a career because I like to see where my food comes from and how it is produced. I love being in the country and working with livestock and there is always some new to learn,” he says.

The winner of the 2019 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Trainee of the Year competition, Rebecca Casidy, acknowledges it can be difficult being a female in a predominantly male-dominated industry. “There have been occasions where I’ve been overlooked for possible job progression and general basic farm work has been passed on,” she explains.

“I surrounded myself with people who see me for who I am and what I’m capable of and that’s been a big factor in overcoming that gender bias.”

The 24-year-old works on Landcorp Farming Ltd’s 161ha, 400-cow farm in Ngatea. She won $6,825 in prizes and two merit awards.

Prior to beginning work within the dairy industry in 2016, Rebecca had completed a three-year Chef apprenticeship at Skycity in Auckland, working in 13 different restaurants within the complex. “I worked with some incredible chefs who are still my mentors to this day.”

Love was the reason behind Rebecca’s change in career, as she moved to be closer to her partner, Alex Voysey. “Alex first introduced me to the industry and through him I was able to see what an amazing lifestyle it is and how rewarding it can be,” she says. “I love being outside every day and working with the animals and seeing how your decisions and management directly impact everyday results.”

“Before I entered the dairy industry, I never had a solid direction of where I wanted to go, or really a passion for what I was doing. That all changed when I became a dairy farmer and saw all of the incredible opportunities that were open to me if I was committed to working for them,” says Rebecca.

“Nothing compares to working the land and being a part of the leading industry in New Zealand. I’m incredibly proud of the work I do and can’t wait to see what I can achieve.”

Farm Assistant Kelsey Lee, aged 25 years, placed second in the Dairy Trainee category, and won $2,525 in prizes. Kelsey works on Steven and Andrea Mills’ 250ha Pukekohe property milking 550 cows.

Despite being told on numerous occasions that ‘girls can’t farm’ or that ‘you need a man or a husband to be able to farm”, Kelsey is proud of her achievements so far. “Comments like those just make me more determined to succeed,” she says.

The 25-year-old holds a Certificate in Rural Animal Technician Level 5, and Certificates in Animal Care and Veterinary Nursing. “Farming chose me, it’s in my blood. I believe I get my love for cows and passion for dairy farming from my grandfather,” says Kelsey. “My ultimate goal is to carry on the legacy my grandfather has built.”

Stephen Smyllie was third. The 22-year-old is Dairy Production Manager and 2IC on Landcorp Farming Ltd’s 500ha, 1300-cow Kaihere farm. He won $1,250 in prizes and one merit award.

The Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards field day will be held on 01 April 2019 at 10.00am at 262 Klondyke Road Onewhero where Auckland/Hauraki Share Farmers of the Year, Ethan and Sarah Koch, sharemilk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Kyle Brennan and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Rebecca Casidy. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at

Share Farmer Merit Awards:
• DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Carl and Tracey Van Hellemond
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Ethan and Sarah Koch
• Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Ethan and Sarah Koch
• Honda Farm Safety, Health & Biosecurity Award – Carl and Tracey Van Hellemond
• LIC Recording & Productivity Award – Ethan & Sarah Koch
• Meridian Farm Environment Award - Ethan & Sarah Koch
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award - Ethan & Sarah Koch
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Carl and Tracey Van Hellemond

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
• Auckland/Hauraki DIA Most Promising Entrant Award – Gemma Flavell
• Nick Hoogeveen & Associates Employee Engagement Award – Alex Voysey
• H R Fisken & Sons Leadership Award – Toby Greenhalgh
• Franklin Vets Feed Management Award – Kyle Brennan
• Delaval Livestock Management Award – Kyle Brennan
• Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Kyle Brennan
• PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Kyle Brennan
• Westpac Personal Planning & Financial Management Award – Toby Greenhalgh

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
• Auckland/Hauraki DIA Most Promising Entrant Award – Robert Over
• Campbell Tyson Ltd Farming Knowledge Award – Rebecca Casidy
• Keeper Life Community & Industry Involvement Award – Rebecca Casidy
• BlackmanSpargo Rural Law Ltd Communication & Engagement Award – Stephen Smyllie
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Grace Campbell

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