Expressions of Interest: register here now to be alerted when 2024 entries open.  


2024 Taranaki Dairy Industry Awards Winners Announced

The 2024 Taranaki Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmers of the Year have a passion for dairy farming and a strong track record of farm performance.

Daniel Barnard & Jess Matthews were named the region’s Share Farmers of the Year at the annual awards dinner which was held at the TSB Hub in Hawera on Saturday evening.  Sarah Avery was named the 2024 Taranaki Dairy Manager of the Year and Eric Fa’anoi the 2024 Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Daniel and Jess are Lower Order Sharemilkers on Roger Dickie’s 500ha, 1600-cow property at Waverley. They won $8,000 and one merit award, and were presented the historic trophy by Ivan Burrows from Trelleborg.

Jess grew up on a sheep and beef station and worked in the agriculture service industry.  Daniel entered the industry as a farm assistant in 2003 after attending Taratahi training college, working his way up to farm manager before moving into contract milking in 2014. 

He took 18 months off from farming to work as a zookeeper at Wellington Zoo.

The couple are working towards farm ownership and are excited to be moving into 50/50 sharemilking next season.

They are people-focused and really enjoy working with their large team and seeing them achieve their goals.

“We have a sold understanding of all the levels of the dairy farming ladder, meaning we can relate to staff well and have built a strong team culture where everyone enjoys coming to work.”

Farming seemed a natural career choice for both Daniel and Jess, who like how hard work is well rewarded by the industry.

“We like that the ability to grow and challenge yourself is always there and that we are able to give our three children a rural upbringing.

The couple believe New Zealand will continue to lead the world in efficient food production and look forward to the ever-continuing advancements in farming.

“We would like to see the general public and New Zealand public proud of farmers again.”

The couple are proud they have turned their income into equity and built assets that they are now using to buy cows for their 50/50 position next season.

“We intend to be hands-on farmers for the foreseeable future and look forward to seeing if our kids want to be involved in working on the land,” they say.

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.

Runners-up in the 2024 Taranaki Share Farmer category were Jeffrey and Sharon Nicholas who are 50/50 sharemilkers on Steve and Ann Nicholas’ 110ha, 350-cow Hawera farm. They won $4,550 and four merit awards.

The former rural banker and accountant jumped at the opportunity to sharemilk on Jeff’s family farm in 2022 and are currently in their second season.

“We were involved in people’s businesses in our previous roles which motivated us to give it a crack ourselves,” they say.  “We also wanted to be able to raise our family on a farm.”

The couple entered the Awards programme to analyse their business. gain confidence in what they are doing well and identify areas requiring improvement.

Third placegetter in the 2024 Taranaki Share Farmer category was awarded to Kingsley Young who won $2,450 and two merit awards. He is contract milking on the 50ha, 176-cow Todd Energy farm at Hawera.

The winner of the 2024 Taranaki Dairy Manager of the Year category is Sarah Avery who is farm manager for Carl and Shey Kowalewski on their 130ha property, milking 300 cows at Midhurst.  She won $5,000 in prizes and four merit awards.

The 24-year-old says entering the Awards programme has been the best thing she has done for her career.

“The feedback that I’ve received from the judges in the past has made me a better farmer and progress through the industry faster.”

“It’s also allowed me to take a step back and look at myself and make improvements both in my career and also outside of work,” says Sarah.

“The people you meet through the awards are so inspiring and I now have a sold network of farmers in Taranaki.”

Sarah grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Toko and holds a Bachelor of Agri Commerce from Massey University and loves working in the dairy industry, beginning as a farm assistant then progressing to manager.

“I started calf-rearing and relief milking while studying and I love the variety that being a dairy farmer gives,” she says. “I love working outside and with animals and couldn’t imagine ever working inside.”

Sarah enjoys the science behind dairy farming and the progression pathway within the dairy industry. “There is always something new to learn.”

“The new research that is being carried out on many farms in New Zealand and around the world is awesome and I look forward to seeing what our industry looks like in the future.”

“I hope to be a dairy farmer leading the way in this space, with my governance level involvement in local research farms having a positive impact on our industry and the sustainability and longevity of dairy farming in New Zealand.”

Sarah is very proud of her progression within the dairy industry, from stepping onto a dairy farm with no experience to now being trusted to manage a farm, along with her partner Brandon and help from owners Carl and Shey.  “I’m really proud of how far I’ve come in three seasons and look forward to what I can achieve in years to come.”

A passionate New Zealand Young Farmers member, Sarah also plays for the Hawera Women’s hockey team. “Work/life balance is extremely important to me and making sure I get off-farm is crucial to ensuring I’m the best version of myself on the farm.”

Despite the challenges of being a female in an industry that is viewed as predominantly male, Sarah believes dairy farming is a rewarding career.

“My farm owners are afraid of change, and they aren’t afraid to trust the new research and make changes that positively impact their business and also the environment.”

Runner-up in the 2024 Taranaki Dairy Manager category was Daniel Warren, who won $2,800 and two merit awards.

The farm manager currently works for Bruce and Katrina Warren on their 130ha Okato property, milking 310 cows.

The first-time entrant entered the Awards programme to challenge himself.  The qualified builder and former foreman entered the dairy industry six years ago and enjoys working alongside his family.

Future farming goals include contract milking and equity partnership.

Third placegetter in the 2024 Taranaki Dairy Manager category was Jacqui Smith who won $1,700 in prizes.

She is farm assistant on Rob and Gwen Willcox’s 155ha Rahotu property, milking 420 cows.

The winner of the 2024 Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year category is Eric Fa’anoi who was encouraged to enter the Awards by his employer, Matthew O’Connell.

“Matt encouraged me to enter as he said it would help me develop new skills and also allow for networking within the industry.  It most certainly has been a great experience thus far!”

Eric is 2IC on Simon O’Connell’s 98ha, 330-cow farm in Hawera.  He won $6,200 in prizes and one merit award.

The 24-year-old grew up in Porirua and holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Environmental Science and Chemistry.

“I’ve wanted to be a farmer since I was a teenager and watching Country Calendar got me daydreaming about working the land.

I used to tag along with a family friend who worked for DeLaval on his deliveries to farms and one day a farmer asked me to walk the cows up – I couldn’t get out of the van fast enough!”

Eric has been dairy farming full-time since October 2023.  Prior to that he was a Freshwater Advisor and a research assistant on the Native Fish team with Horizons Regional Council, assisting landowners with riparian planting.

“I chose to move into farming as it has always been my passion – my grandad and his brothers back in Samoa were revered horticulturists in the village.”

“They enjoyed working the land, mainly crops of fruit and taro and I think that’s why my heart is in working the land also.”

Future farming goals include “owning a piece of land and a few animals. I’m still in a relatively steep learning phase but have already come so far in a few months!”

Farm assistant Saffron Astwood placed second in the Dairy Trainee category, and won $1,700 in prizes and one merit award.

The 24-year-old works on Louis & Barbara Kuriger and Rachel & Kenneth Short’s 168ha Opunake property milking 350 cows.

The first-time entrant entered the Awards to gain more experience in the sector, make new friends and learn new skills.

“I think entering the dairy industry awards has been a great way to get me out of my comfort zone and prove to myself that I am capable and can do anything I put my mind to.”

Saffron says it is exciting to see all the new technology in the industry that is assisting farmers and their businesses.  “Collars, ear tags and boluses can assist farmers in mating, calving and day-to-day jobs, reducing workloads and benefiting a work/life balance.”

“However, I think it’s important farmers maintain their stockmanship – it could be easy to slip in this skill if the only contact with cows is in the shed.”

Shicaela Kane was third placegetter and is farm assistant for Alpine Rose Ltd on the 300-cow, 95ha Hawera farm. She won $1,200 in prizes and two merit awards.

The Taranaki Dairy Industry Awards field day will be held at 10.00am on 19 March 2024 at 247 Waipipi Road, Waverley S/N OCC 26163 & 26166 where Taranaki Share Farmers of the Year, Daniel Barnard & Jess Matthews are sharemilk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Sarah Avery and the Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year, Eric Fa’anoi. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at

Share Farmer Merit Awards:

•DairyNZ – People and Culture Award:     Daniel Barnard & Jess Matthews
•Ecolab Total Farm Hygiene Award:      Jeffrey & Sharon Nicholas
•Federated Farmers Leadership Award:     Riley & Caitlin O Neill
•Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award:    Kingsley Young
•LIC – Animal Wellbeing, Recording and Productivity Award:  Jeffrey & Sharon Nicholas
•Meridian Environmental Sustainability Award:   Kingsley Young
•Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award:     Jeffrey & Sharon Nicholas
•Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Business Performance Award:  Jeffrey & Sharon Nicholas

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:

•DeLaval Livestock Management AwardDaniel Warren
•Fonterra Dairy Management AwardDaniel Warren
•Landpro Ltd Environmental Sustainability AwardSarah Avery
•Dairy Trust Taranaki Pasture & Feed Management AwardSarah Avery
•Connect Legal People & Leadership AwardSarah Avery
•Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Personal Planning & Financial Management AwardSarah Avery

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

•DairyNZ Practical Skills AwardEric Fa’anoi
•Abacus Group Emerging Talent AwardShicaela Kane
•Dairy Trust Taranaki Farming Knowledge AwardSaffron Astwood
•Landpro Limited Communication & Industry Involvement AwardShicaela Kane