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Southland/Otago Dairy Industry Awards Have Dairying in Their DNA

The winners of the 2024 Southland/Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year category say dairy farming is in their DNA, with endless opportunities for growth.

Cameron Smith and Nicole Hanning-Smith were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year category at a dinner at Invercargill’s Ascot Hotel on Wednesday night. The other big winners were Andrew Hazlett who was named the 2024 Southland/Otago Dairy Manager of the Year, and Shannon Butler, the 2024 Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Cameron and Nicole have a huge love for the land and the animals and say there is never a dull moment on farm. “It is challenging but so rewarding – your hard work gets you places.”

“The endless opportunities for growth is the best part, as the dairy industry allows people to easily move up the ranks.”

The couple are contract milkers for Steve and Tracy Henderson on their 215ha, 580-cow Awarua property. They won $7,900 in prizes and three merit awards.

Cameron placed second in the 2021 Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee category and says the awards allow personal growth and development.

Cameron (27) and Nicole (26) both come from farming backgrounds and attended Lincoln University, where they both achieved a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Agriculture.

Their passion and drive motivates them during harder times as well as reflecting how far they have progressed in a short amount of time.

“We want to be in a position when opportunities come knocking, we can grab them and run.”

The couple are proud of their successes including the purchase of a house and land and increasing production immensely on-farm.

“We are young and motivated which helps us seek opportunities and better ourselves,” they say. “We can take high-risk opportunities because we have time.”

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 Southland/Otago category went to Oliver & Lauren Badcock who won $4,500 in prizes and two merit awards.

The couple are contract milkers for the Andrew & Heather Tripp on their 275ha, 850-cow Kaiwera Gore farm.

The first-time entrants felt like they were in a position on-farm where the growth from entering the awards would benefit them and their farming business.

“We work for supportive owners, and we felt the awards programme would help us fine tune our business.”

Oliver grew up on a beef and cropping farm in the UK, while Lauren is a self-titled townie who studied law at University of Gloucestershire. “With clear goals, there is a pathway to success in New Zealand dairying.”

The couple cite their ability to see the small incremental changes across the whole business as a strength that enables them to run a more efficient business and farm.

“This has a flow on effect throughout the business with staff, environmental, cows and grass.”

Third place went to Hayden & Alienor Diack who won $2,500 in prizes and two merit awards. They are 18% sharemilkers on Mahia Dairies Limited 455ha farm at Wyndham, milking 875 cows.

Andrew Hazlett was named the winner of the 2024 Southland/Otago Dairy Manager of the Year category.

Andrew won $6,950 in prizes plus one merit award and is farm manager on Paul and Rachel Diprose’s 208ha, 570-cow Thornbury property.

The 35-year-old has entered the Awards programme previously and found the experience confidence-boosting.

He credits his dad with passing on his love of farming and has progressed through the ranks since beginning in the industry 21 years ago.

“I’m excited about the new technology coming in and am working to own my own farm, passing my love of farming down to my kids.”

Challenges have included struggling with numbers due to dyslexia, however Andrew’s strengths lie in his people and pasture skills.

“This whole Awards experience has really pushed me out of my comfort zone and I’m proud to be in the top 5.”

Invercargill farm manager Regan Smith was second in the Dairy Manager category, winning $3,500 in prizes and two merit awards.

The first-time entrant previously studied business and worked in tourism. “I never considered farming when I was at school as it was never offered as a subject,” explains the 27-year-old. “At career expos, dairy farming was not a career that was represented like it should be.”

“I didn’t come from a farming background; it wasn’t until I visited a friend’s family farm that I decided that farming would be my future career.

Regan began work as a dairy assistant with Kayne Smith and has progressed to 2IC on the 200ha, 590-cow Gore farm.

Future farming goals include sharemilking and farm ownership. “I would like more education on agriculture in city schools because we have a staffing shortage in the dairy industry, and I know it could be filled by more people like me who haven’t been introduced to this career path.”

Winton farm manager Dilpreet Singh placed third and won $2,000 in prizes and two merit awards. Dilpreet works on NZ Superfunds Ltd 194ha farm, milking 660 cows.

The 2024 Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year is Shannon Butler who was inspired to enter after attending the Awards dinner last year and then hearing 2022 Southland/Otago Dairy Manager winner Laura Murdoch speak at a PrimaryITO class.

“I thought ‘why not do something out of my comfort zone’, and meet other people in the industry.”

Shannon is farm assistant on Allan and Kaye Wilson’s 200ha Invercargill property, milking 600 cows. She won $6,950 in prizes and one merit award.

The 28-year-old is excited about the technology in the dairy industry that will help in many different aspects of farming.

Shannon cites balancing work and life as very important as it enables her to perform at her best on-farm.

During challenging times, she is proud at how the team pulls together and motivates each other.

Future farming goals included completing a diploma in agricultural business and continue progressing into an assistant manager position.

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee category was farm assistant Samuel Welsh who won $3,000 in prizes. He works on Andrew and Heather Tripp’s 283ha, 850-cow farm at Gore.

The 19-year-old came from a farming background in England where his grandparents own a small beef and arable farm.

“Growing up around that helped me to see a future in agriculture and I decided to go to Reaseheath Agricultural College in England for three years,” says Samuel. “I made the move to NZ in June 2023 where I have worked at Nithdale Dairies for the last 9 months.”

Future farming goals include progressing from farm assistant to managing in 5 years’ time and share milking in 10 years.

Third place in the Dairy Trainee category went to farm assistant Corey Hirst who won $2,000 in prizes and one merit award. The 22-year-old is 2IC on John and Teresa Van Hout’s 235ha, 630-cow farm in Winton.

The Southland/Otago Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held at 10.30am on 10th April 2024 at 245 Awarua School Road, Dacre, Invercargill, 9877 S/N Open Country 13066, where Share Farmers of the Year, Cameron Smith and Nicole Hanning-Smith contract milk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Andrew Hazlett and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Shannon Butler. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at

Share Farmer Merit Awards:

•DairyNZ – People and Culture Award Hayden & Alienor Diack

•Ecolab Total Farm Hygiene Award Hayden & Alienor Diack

•Federated Farmers Leadership Award Oliver & Lauren Badcock

•Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award Oliver & Lauren Badcock

•LIC – Animal Wellbeing, Recording and Productivity AwardJerome Montes

•Meridian Environmental Sustainability AwardCameron Smith & Nicole Hanning-Smith

•Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award Cameron Smith & Nicole Hanning-Smith

•ASB Business Performance Award Cameron Smith & Nicole Hanning-Smith

•McIntyre Dick Emerging Talent AwardGeorge Mushchamp

Dairy Manager Merit

•DeLaval Livestock Management AwardAndrew Hazlett

•Fonterra Dairy Management AwardRegan Smith

•Landpro Environmental Sustainability AwardJeremy Tyler

•Dairy Holdings Pasture & Feed Management AwardDilpreet Singh

•AWS People & Leadership AwardRegan Smith

•CowManager Personal Planning & Financial Management AwardDilpreet Singh

•Regional Ford Emerging Talent AwardBaljit Singh

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

•DairyNZ Practical Skills AwardCorey Hirst

•NZDIA Southland/Otago Emerging Talent AwardErin Harland Christie

•FarmRight Farming Knowledge AwardShannon Butler

•VetSouth Communication & Industry Involvement AwardSharna Durry