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Waikato Dairy Industry Award Winners Announced

The major winners in the 2024 Waikato Dairy Industry Awards are proof that poor decisions of the past can be overcome to carve out a successful career in milking cows.

Logan and Sian Dawson were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year category at the Waikato Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at Claudelands Event Centre on Wednesday evening. The other big winners were Matthew Macdonald, who became the 2024 Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year, and Kirwyn Ellis, the 2024 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Logan has come a long way from the young man who made a poor decision while pig-hunting and is now a dairy farmer who has elevated animal welfare to the forefront of his business.

He declared the historic charges when entering the Awards and believes it benefits everyone to value the animals that farmers have the privilege of caring for.

“Just over a decade ago, when I was in my early twenties, I found myself on the receiving end of animal cruelty charges and immediately took full responsibility for my actions,” he says.

“I am so sorry and have used the experience as an opportunity for personal growth and I lead our team to diligently display best animal welfare practices.”

As a husband and father of five, Logan says he is acutely aware of how important it is to not only surround his family with genuine wholesome people, but to be that person for those around them as well.

“I wanted my kids to find something positive about me when googling and I’ve spent the past decade trying to be the best role model I can be for them and my team.”

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”My desire is to be the best example to my legacy that I can be.”

“Taking part in the awards will hopefully redefine me or at least balance out the past and prove that you can turn your life around.”

“I have been able to start breeding a herd of my own, something I’m very passionate about, and have worked my way up to an equity partnership sharemilking job that is incredibly fulfilling.”

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 $19,960 in prizes and three merit awards.

The couple believe the Awards programme has pushed them out of their comfort zone, but they enjoyed the challenge and have grown a lot through the process.

Logan (36) is a third generation farmer who grew up on the family dairy farm and has been farming since leaving high school.

“I’ve worked my way up from farm assistant to herd manager, 2IC, then lower-order sharemilking which led to larger scale contract milking that’s allowed us to grow into our current equity partner sharemilking role.”

Logan has achieved NZ Certificate in Agriculture Levels 2, 3 and 4, NZ Certificate in Production Management Level 5 and NZ Certificate in Agribusiness Management Level 5.

Sian (36) had a very different upbringing, raised as a city girl in Sydney. “I’ve been a photographer for the last 10 years and am kept very busy raising our five children.”

The couple enjoy the variety of physical and mental work that farming gives them and the connection with their animals and the land.

“We get to feed the world and live a honest and wholesome life at the same time.”

The couple look forward to watching technology advancing and new ideas being tested to increase efficiency as well as reduce environmental impact.

“We see ourselves as a part of that leading edge, whether doing trial work or implementing better practices and helping farmers toward a sustainable future.”

One of the biggest challenges the couple have faced was the 2016 pay out. “It changed the way we now structure our business, the way we operate with minimizing expenses, personal drawings and revolutionised our risk assessment and decision-making process.”

They are proud they have achieved a large-scale sharemilking equity partnership and hitting 130% of liveweight in production last year.

The Dawsons identify the strong relationship with their equity partner as a strength of their business along with profitable and proven farm systems.

“Farming is certainly challenging at times but every difficulty is an opportunity for growth.”

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.

Stephen and Sophie Smyllie were named Runner-up in the Waikato Share Farmer category. Stephen was the 2019 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Trainee of the Year and 2020 Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Manager of the Year category. The couple won $8,428 in prizes and three merit awards.

“Entering the Awards in the early stages of my career had a huge impact, adding value to my CV and

allowing me to progress in the industry, however the most value was from learning more about my farming business through the in-depth judging criteria,” says Stephen.

“With entering comes great opportunities, the ability to meet like-minded people at similar stages in their careers from all over the country as well as gain some amazing mentors and great prizes!

Stephen and Sophie are contract milking 325 cows on Stephen Weir’s 98.3ha Manawaru property.

“Our farm team is the key to our work life balance and we are making sure we are doing everything we can to create an environment that allows us to best support our people, animals and land that we are farming, setting us up for a successful career and life.”

The couple, both aged 26, say increasing environmental pressures are challenging New Zealand farmers to do better and be better than ever before.

“For us, it is an exciting opportunity as we continually look at ways of being more efficient with everything we are doing on-farm, to ensure we are more sustainable for generations to come.”

Stephanie Kay placed third in the Share Farmer category and is a percentage sharemilker for Sue Broomfield on her 68ha Morrinsville property, milking 220 cows. She won $6,104 and two merit awards.

The 32-year-old entered the Trainee and Farm Manager categories over 10 Years ago and

loved both experiences.

“Entering exposed me to like-minded people and gave me a chance to challenge myself

and grow personally,” she says.

© Scoop Media

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