The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards

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Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Awards Winners Determined to Advance in Industry

26 March 2015

The 2015 Canterbury/North Otago Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Justin and Melissa Slattery are passionate and determined to advance in the dairy industry – in fact they want to be farm owners before they are 35 years old.

The Slatterys took out the major title and claimed $18,800 in prizes at last night’s 2015 Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Industry Awards annual dinner held at the Airforce Museum of New Zealand at Wigram. The other big winners were Mark Cudmore, the 2015 Canterbury/North Otago Farm Manager of the Year, and James Davidson, the 2015 Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year.

“We are determined to push ourselves to be the best we can be in our industry, and look forward to the day when we own our own dairy farm,” the young couple said. “We’re also flexible and willing to adapt to changes in the dairy industry to manage our dairy farm as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Justin and Melissa Slattery are 50% sharemilking 550 cows for Norm and Sandra Williamson at Culverden. They have been in the position since the start of this season and began sharemilking in 2011.

Their immediate goal is to double the size of their sharemilking business while their long term goal is to purchase a 100ha dairy farm within five years.

“We are accountable to ourselves and our strategic management plan. Our passion drives us to achieve what we have set out to do in this plan.”

Justin Slattery, aged 29, has been in the industry eight years, after completing an engineering apprenticeship at Wallace Meats, in the Waikato. Melissa Slattery, aged 28, has a Bachelor of Business Management and became a chartered accountant in 2012.

It was the second time the couple had entered the awards, saying they benefited from the opportunity to network with others and have their business reviewed.

Leeston equity farm managers Tony Coltman and Dana Carver were second in the sharemilker/equity farmer contest winning $12,750 and Rakaia 20% sharemilker David Le Heron was third, winning $3500 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.

The 2015 Canterbury/North Otago Farm Manager of the Year, Mark Cudmore, has lived up to judges’ expectations by winning the title, after gaining the award for most promising farm manager last year.

Mr Cudmore, a 35-year-old farm manager milking 586 cows for Nick Ensor at Cheviot, won $7900 in prizes. He says the awards are a great way to get involved in the industry and meet people.

“It also helps highlight your strengths and weaknesses, which gives you a greater focus of what you require to develop yourself further.”

Married to Jess and with four children, he is in his third season in the dairy industry. He worked as a technical field representative specialising in pasture and forages for PGG Wrightson after obtaining a Bachelor of Ag Science from Lincoln University.

Given his background, it should be no surprise that a strength of his is pasture management. “As the property has the ability to grow consistently high quality grass throughout the season, we have a relatively low requirement for supplement and relatively low costs of production.”

The couple’s goal is to build an equity base to secure their family’s future in farm ownership.

Rakaia farm manager Jonathan Hoets went one better this year, finishing runner-up in the farm manager contest and winning $3500 in prizes. He was third in 2014. Third place in 2015 were Oxford contract milkers Ben and Jemma Abernethy, winning $4100 including two of the four merit awards on offer.

The 2015 Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year, James Davidson, worked on farms around the world before returning to New Zealand in 2012 to launch his dairy farming career.

The 26-year-old won $6360 in prizes, and is currently working on the Darfield farm owned by Warren and Annemieke Thomas milking 1400 cows. Mr Davidson is employed by 2011 Hawkes Bay/Wairarapa Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year Richard and Joanna Greaves.

It was the second time he had entered the awards. “It’s good for testing your skills and abilities and to get feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.”

He holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Farm Management and plans to progress through farm management, contract milking and sharemilking to farm ownership. “We hope to grow our equity, improve our skill base and build relationships with industry professionals.”

Oamaru farm assistant Blake Harvie placed second in the region’s dairy trainee contest and won $2000 in prizes. Third place went to Rakaia farm assistant Daniel McAtamney, who won $650.

Canterbury/North Otago Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Justin and Melissa Slattery, will host a field day on April 13, while Farm Manager of the Year, Mark Cudmore, will host a field day on the Cheviot farm he manages on April 8. Further details on the winners and field days can be found on this website.