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The winners of the 2024 Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Dairy industry Awards have come a long way since arriving in New Zealand as backpackers - literally with the clothes on their backs - and credit their success to hard work, learning, listening and the guidance and advice of good mentors.

Alvaro Luzardo and Ximena Puig were named the region’s Share Farmers of the Year at the annual awards dinner which was held at the Copthorne Masterton on Tuesday evening, and received the trophy from Trelleborg. Rene ten Bolscher was named the 2024 Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Manager of the Year and Kieran Scannell the 2024 Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Due to the minimum number of finalists not being reached, Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Share Farmer and Dairy Manager entrant scores were benchmarked against the national average, with data collated from the 10 other regions.

This also means merit awards are awarded if the entrant achieved at the right level.

Alvaro left Uruguay arrived in New Zealand in 2013 for a working holiday and began work on a dairy farm in Canterbury to save money and continue travelling.

“I spoke no English, so my boss used to draw on a whiteboard what I had to do,” remembers Alvaro. “This was the beginning of my career in the New Zealand dairy industry.”

Ximena joined him in 2018 and believes their teamwork is a strength of their business. “We complement each other and keep each other motivated to do well,” she explains. “The key to our success is communication.”

The couple are currently 50/50 sharemilkers on Geoff Arends and Ester Romp’s 164ha, 480-cow Eketahuna property. They won $7,750 in prizes and six merit awards.

The first-time entrants decided to enter the Awards to meet new people and learn from the experience. “We wanted to challenge ourselves and put our names out there for future opportunities.”

Growing up in a city of 40,000 in Uruguay, Alvaro holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Engineering which is similar to the NZ agricultural science qualification. He has also achieved PrimaryITO Levels 4 and 5.

“I have loved farming since I was a child, as I enjoy the flexibility of farm life, working outdoors with the animals and the challenge of managing resources,” he says.

Ximena holds a Bachelor of Architecture and grew up in Montevideo, Uruguay. She works as an architectural designer from home, and makes it work with the farm. “I love working with the cows and rearing calves.”

The couple believe New Zealand has unique conditions to supply high-quality products to the world. “Here we have good land, nice weather, good breeding cows and people who are motivated by the opportunity to progress in their career pathway.”

“We like to see ourselves as part of the future of the NZ dairy industry, owning land, growing our family and promoting ethical and responsible farming practices.”

Future farming goals include paying off debt to build a strong equity position while continuing to improve their herd and eventually buying a farm.

“We understand we are part of a dynamic business and need to have flexibility to adapt to different circumstances.”

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.

Runner-up in the region’s Share Farmer category is Baljinder Singh who $2,775 in prizes and one merit award.

He is contract milking for Sandie Shivas, on a 200ha, 550-cow farm at Carterton.

Baljinder and his wife Gagan both grew up on dairy and crop farms in India and see a bright future for the dairy industry in New Zealand.

Future farming goals include progressing to sharemilking and farm ownership.

Third placegetter in the Share Farmer category was awarded to Chaminda & Thilanka Wijesooriya who won $1,325 and one merit award. They were third placegetter in the same category in 2022.

The couple emigrated to New Zealand from Sri Lanka and are proud of their growth through the industry.

They are currently contract milking for Cameron, Duncan and Andrea Stuart on their 250ha, 750-cow Masterton farm.

The 2024 Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Manager of the Year, Rene ten Bolscher, won $6,450 in prizes plus three merit awards.

Rene is farm manager on Clarence and Elise Stolte’s 170ha, 500-cow farm at Carterton.

The third-time entrant placed third in the same category in 2022 and says every time he has entered he has learnt more and became more confident.

“I had to figure out why we use the systems we use and go into more depth with the reasons why,” he says. “A lot of the puzzle pieces fell into place as I went searching, giving me a much clearer view of the farm and reasons behind each choice.”

Rene qualified as a plumber, electrician and engineer in his native Holland, before moving to New Zealand in 2013v on a working holiday. “Farming suited my visa and I quickly discovered I loved the lifestyle, the variety of work and the challenge of always being able to improve and be more efficient.”

The 31-year-old is excited about the new technology being developed to make farming more efficient and easier to be aware of what is happening on-farm.

“I’d like to see regulations become fairer – it feels like many are created by people who are not closely enough involved in dairy farming.”

“It would be helpful if we could all work more closely together to make rules and regulations achievable for future generations.”

Rene has achieved PrimaryITO Level 2 Milk Quality and Weeds, Level 3 Agriculture and is a certified AI technician.

During challenging times, Rene reminds himself that he is still more fortunate than many people and wants to make today better than yesterday. “I have faith that it’s all under control.”

Future farming goals include farm ownership and achieving a work/life balance.

“I’m proud of how far I have come in eleven years,” says Rene. “I came to New Zealand not knowing any English or anything about farming and now I am managing a dairy farm and own some land where we can enjoy our family life.”

He cites the farm owners as a strength of the business. “They care about helping every farm member, and are skilled at developing staff, which brings about excellent business results.”

Runner-up in the Dairy Manager category was Emily Cooper who was the 2020 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year.

She is farm manager for Eliot and Mary Cooper’s across two properties, totalling 313ha with a total of 720 cows at Takapau. She won $1,300 plus two merit awards.

The 27-year-old holds a Bachelor of Agricommerce from Massey University and says she has gained many industry connections and relationships through entering the Awards.

“I’ve challenged myself, increased my knowledge base and built a better foundation to work moving forward.”

“I don’t know what the future looks like for the New Zealand dairy industry, however I hope the land we have in dairying stays dairying,” she says. “I believe our genetic gains and innovation mean we can continue to be the most carbon efficient and best producers of milk in the world.”

The third placegetter in the Dairy Manager category is Kalana Wanigahoranekarage who is farm manager on Sandie Shivas’ West Taratahi 180ha, 300-cow farm, working for Share Farmer runner up Baljinder Singh.

The 2024 Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Trainee of the Year is Kieran Scannell who entered the Awards to meet like-minded people that have similar goals.

“They are also a good way to get feedback for areas where I can improve but also what I do well. I also feel it is good to give yourself a challenge and get out of my comfort zone.”

Kieran is 2IC on Mike Burmeister’s 323ha, 1050-cow farm at Pahiatua. He won $6,100 in prizes and one merit award.

The first-time entrant was studying a science degree and working in retail when love saw him make the move to the dairy industry.

“My partner offered a new lifestyle out in the rural areas, so I took the leap of faith and haven’t looked back,” he remembers. “Despite growing up in the city, I was always a hands-on kind of person and farming has been a good way to utilize that behavior.”

“Working with the livestock was a shock at first but has been enjoyable the more I understand their characteristics.

Kieran believes New Zealand has a good reputation for the dairy industry. “It is nice to see that we are still striving to reach new levels for the improvement of the business end, but also still focusing on the wellbeing of the environment.

“I am excited to see myself in a few years where I will have cemented myself potentially in a sharemilking role with my partner, pushing the boundaries of innovation.”

Coming from a city life in Wellington to a small corner in Manawatu has been a change of pace for Kieran with rosters and physicality to become accustomed to.

“There are also many new topics gaining my attention and it sometimes feels like another language which I eventually adapted to.”

Greytown farm assistant Megan Gysbertsen was second in the Dairy Trainee category, winning $1,250 in prizes and two merit awards. She works on Willow Dairies 354ha, 950-cow property.

Farm assistant John Mellish was third. He works on Ricky Morrison and Sharleen Hutchings’ 177ha, 430-cow Eketahuna property. He won $1,050 in prizes and one merit award.

Share Farmer Merit Awards:

· DairyNZ – People and Culture Award Ximena Puig & Alvaro Luzardo

· Ecolab Total Farm Hygiene Award Chaminda & Thilanka Wijesooriya

· Federated Farmers Leadership Award Baljinder Singh

· Honda Farm Safety, Health & Biosecurity Award Ximena Puig & Alvaro Luzardo

· LIC - Animal Wellbeing, Recording and Productivity Award Ximena Puig & Alvaro Luzardo

· Meridian Environmental Sustainability Award Ximena Puig & Alvaro Luzardo

· Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award Ximena Puig & Alvaro Luzardo

· Lawson Avery Charted Accountants & Business Advisors Business Performance AwardXimena Puig & Alvaro Luzardo

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:

· DeLaval Livestock Management Award Rene ten Bolscher

· Fonterra Dairy Management Award Rene ten Bolscher

· CowManager Environmental Sustainability Award Emily Cooper

· Vet Services (Dannevirke) Pasture & Feed Management Award Emily Cooper

· TFM Tractors People & Leadership Award Rene ten Bolscher

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

· DairyNZ Practical Skills Award John Mellish

· Hawkes Bay Committee Emerging Talent Award Megan Gysbertsen

· TH Enterprises Farming Knowledge Award Kieran Scannell

· Hawkes Bay Committee Communication & Industry Involvement Award Megan Gysbertsen