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West Coast/Top Of South Dairy Industry Award Winners Run a Tight Ship

The major winners in the 2024 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards cite their financial discipline and low-input once-a-day system as their business’ greatest strengths.

Michael and Cheryl Shearer were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year Category at the annual awards dinner held in Shantytown on Saturday night. The other big winners were Trinity Jackson, who was named the 2024 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Manager of the Year, and Alexandra Davidson, the 2024 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year.

The Shearers run a very tight ship that is sustainable and profitable in all pay-outs and say the once-a-day system allows for time out of the shed and off the farm.

“It’s important to be able to give your mind a rest from the farm as this helps to keep your head and thoughts clear and remind you what is really important.”

The Shearers are 50/50 share milkers on Russell Andrews’ 225ha Reefton farm milking 500 cows. They won $8,000 in prizes and four merit awards.

Michael was named 2014 Taranaki Farm Manager of the Year and in 2012 he placed third in the New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year competition after winning the West Coast Top of the South regional title.

He credits his previous Awards experiences with increasing his job opportunities and career progression as well as confidence and networking.

Michael and Cheryl have faced a few challenges over the past few seasons, including the 2019 Tasman Forest fire which saw them evacuating their cows and farm for two weeks.

“We returned to a fairly destroyed farm and a few years later lost 25% of our milking platform for 6 months in the 2022 Rai Valley floods.”

The Shearers maintain a positive outlook and see challenges as an opportunity to work out positive solutions.

“I actually enjoy the hard times as they drive you to better your business and find different options and ways of doing things,” says Michael.

The couple are excited about the number of future options available in terms of farm ownership and aim to purchase as 400-cow farm soon.

“Long term we’d like to own a few farms that we can utilise to help young people into farm ownership.”

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.

The runners-up in the Share Farmer category are Warric and Rachel Johnson who are contract milkers for Phil & Jocelyn Riley on their 375ha, 1100-cow Tapawera property. They won $3,500 and three merit awards.

Warric and Rachel began their farming journey 25 years ago and entered as they believed it would be a good opportunity to broaden their network, measuring themselves against others within the industry as well as a good learning experience.

The couple are proud that they have decreased their staff hours to 1950 hours average, per annum, per employee which means all their staff are earning over the hourly living wage.

“Farming is so much more than a job to us both, it’s a lifestyle that not only we love but are also lucky enough to share with our children, grandchildren, extended family and friends,” they say. “It’s not unusual for us both to go for an evening drive through the farm admiring the clover or grass cover and discussing what we can improve on or our future goals.”

“We feel farming isn’t just about “farming”, it’s about meeting new people and forming a wide network. It’s about ‘always learning’, because if you think you know everything there is to know, then it’s probably time to hang up your boots and overalls.”

Third placegetter in the Share Farmer category was awarded to Mark and Esther Tubman who are contract milkers for John and Anne Freeman, on their 150ha, 345-cow Takaka property.

The second-time entrants placed third in the same category last year. They won $3,500 and one merit award.

Due to the minimum number of finalists not being reached, West Coast/Top of the South 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.

The winner of the 2024 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Manager of the Year category is Trinity Jackson, who describes herself as a converted townie.

Trinity is farm manager for Pāmu Farms of New Zealand on the 441ha, 800-cow Moana property. She won $7,000 in prizes and three merit awards.

The third-time entrant was named runner-up in the 2022 West Coast Top of the South Dairy Trainee category and says there are many benefits to entering the Awards.

“The experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, and the feedback from the judges was incredible. It was an excellent way to challenge myself and meet new people.”

Trinity found her passion for animals and farming through her partner Tristan who introduced her to the lifestyle.

“I have an immense passion for animal welfare as well as a drive to challenge myself to produce a quality food product while protecting our environment.”

The 22-year-old is proud of the improvement and development made on-farm and seeing the results of hard work, especially regarding somatic cell count, production, presentation and personal development.

Trinity would like to be involved in innovation and ideas within the industry and help the next generation learn and grow in the farming industry.

Future farming goals include contract milking in 5-10 years’ time.

Runner-up in the Dairy Manager category was Kieran Hamilton, who won $2,000 and three merit awards.

Kieran is farm manager for Pāmu Farms of New Zealand on the 471ha, 800-cow Moana property. He placed third in the same category last year.

Alexandra Davidson has been named winner in the 2024 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year category.

The 29-year-old is farm assistant on the Birchlea Trust 300ha, 725-cow farm at St Arnaud and took home $6,500 in prizes and one merit award. She placed third in the same category last year.

The second-time entrant holds a Bachelor of Teaching and a Diploma in Montessori Education and left early childhood teaching in Christchurch to take up an opportunity to explore the dairy farming idea further.

Alexandra says she still has a lot to learn and is proud of the number of skills and knowledge she has gained since entering the industry in April 2022.

“The dairy industry is always changing and I’m excited to upskill so I can manage a farm.”

Future goals include farm ownership and becoming a PrimaryITO tutor.

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee category was 19-year-old 2IC Tomas Stanger who won $1,500 in prizes.

Tomas works on Pāmu Farms of New Zealand 482ha, 1060-cow property at Westport.

The first-time entrant was training to be a personal trainer before realising dairying was where he wanted to be.

Future farming goals include progressing to a manager’s position within Pāmu Farms.

Third place in the Dairy Trainee category went to 24-year-old farm assistant Sapphire Jordan who won $1,000 in prizes and two merit awards.

Sapphire works on Elizabeth O’Connor’s 86ha, 220-cow Richmond property.

The West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on 9th April 2024 at 10.30am at 43 Garveys Creek Mine Road, Reefton 7871 S/N Westland Milk Products 556 where Share Farmers of the Year, Michael and Cheryl Shearer sharemilk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Trinity Jackson and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Alexandra Davidson. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at

Share Farmer Merit Awards:

•DairyNZ – People and Culture Award Warric & Rachel Johnson

•Ecolab Total Farm Hygiene Award Warric & Rachel Johnson

•Federated Farmers Leadership Award Michael and Cheryl Shearer

•Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award Warric & Rachel Johnson

•LIC – Animal Wellbeing, Recording and Productivity AwardMichael and Cheryl Shearer

•Meridian Environmental Sustainability AwardMichael and Cheryl Shearer

•Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award Luke Chisnall & Charlotte Harding

•Cuffs Chartered Accountants & Business Advisors Business Performance Award Michael and Cheryl Shearer

•Westland Milk Products Emerging Talent AwardMark and Ester Tubman

Dairy Manager Merit

•DeLaval Livestock Management AwardKieran Hamilton

•Fonterra Dairy Management AwardTrinity Jackson

•Drummond & Etheridge Environmental Sustainability AwardTrinity Jackson

•Silver Fern Farms Pasture & Feed Management AwardKieran Hamilton

•Parry Field Lawyers People & Leadership AwardTrinity Jackson

•Cow Manager Personal Planning & Financial Management AwardKieran Hamilton

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

•DairyNZ Practical Skills AwardSapphire Jordan

•WCTOS Dairy Industry Awards - Committee Emerging Talent AwardHannah Payne

•Pāmu Farms of New Zealand Farming Knowledge AwardSapphire Jordan

•Greenfield Motors Communication & Industry Involvement AwardAlexandra Davidson