25 March 2019
The major winner in the 2019 Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Industry Awards aims to look after his people, pasture, cows and environment through sustainable best practices and increase profit through innovative business culture.
Ruwan Wijayasena was announced winner of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year competition at the Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at the Wigram Airforce Museum. The other major winners were Matt Redmond, who was named the 2019 Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Manager of the Year, and Nicola Blowey, the 2019 Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year.
Now in his 14th year dairy farming, Ruwan says the past few years have shown the business is achieving consistent results. “I wanted to share this with the wider industry and find out whether there are any other opportunities for the business to grow.”
Ruwan, aged 43 years, is contract milking 1840 cows for Theland Farm Group Ltd on a 537ha Darfield farm. He won $10,750 in prizes plus two merit awards.
Ruwan holds a B.Sc. Agriculture Sciences from Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, majoring in Livestock Production.
“I have always loved being a farmer, and I was so lucky to join Synlait Farms, now Theland Farm Group, who shared my desire to implement best farm practices towards sustainability of dairy farming.”
Ruwan sees his consistent results as a strength of the sustainable dairy business. “They are a result of lean implementation and LWP implementation under a strong leadership.”
“My wife and I are Buddhist and have a religious barrier of not being able to own cows and make decisions to kill them. We have found a way to grow our business without following the traditional footsteps.”
Future farming goals include expanding the contract milking business. “I am not planning to become 50/50 sharemilker and then a farm owner. I can prove that there are other ways to grow than the traditional ladder and wish to share my knowledge with the industry.”
The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian, Ravensdown, and Westpac along with industry partners DairyNZ and Primary ITO.
Runners-up in the Canterbury-North Otago competition went to Shaun and Andrea Wise, aged 37 & 36 years, who won $3,750 in prizes.
Shaun and Andrea contract milk for Dairy Holdings Limited on a 134ha Rangitata Island property, milking 590 cows.
Originally from South Africa, Shaun holds a Bachelor of Accounting Science and Diploma in Agribusiness Management. He is also a qualified LIC AB Technician. Andrea holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Massey University and worked in various rural professional roles before making the move to contract milking.
The couple see their combined qualifications, backgrounds and experiences as a strength for their business. “We are able to draw on them to make good decisions at every level.”
“Our business is in a good position for growth, with clear goals and an action plan that allows for the ability to take opportunities as they arise.”
Future farming goals include herd and farm ownership. “We would also like to have a dairy farm that is powered completely by renewable energy from dairy by-products.”
Third place went to Elizabeth and Lyndon Grant, who entered the Award to challenge themselves and analyse their business in depth.
“We also want to give back to the dairy industry and the people who have helped us on our journey into sharemilking. We think recognition for us is also reflection on all their hard work and input.”
The couple are 50/50 sharemilkers for Ross and Susan Duncan’s 195ha farm at Ashburton, where they milk 700 cows.
Elizabeth and Lyndon both share the same passion for the dairy industry and want to have a successful and sustainable business. “We feel we do this by having a quality herd, sending milk to the highest standard we can and looking after our farm.”
“Our relationship with our farm owners and other business partners is another strength of our business. This is important to create opportunities and a strong business profile that is open and profitable for all involved.”
The winner of the 2019 Canterbury- North Otago Dairy Manager of the Year category enjoys the variety of new tasks farming provides, working with people and being outside.
Matt Redmond won $6,125 in prizes plus three merit awards and is the farm manager on Craigmore’s Pahau Flats Dairy Ltd – Landsend 232ha, 830-cow property at Culverden.
“The Awards process has helped me to benchmark myself against other managers and meet new people,” says Matt.
Matt (25) holds Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) majoring in Agricultural Management and Rural Valuation from Lincoln University. He entered the dairy industry four years ago and has worked for the past two as a manager.
Matt sees the training and development his employers put into their staff as standing him in good stead for progression within the business.
Christchurch farm manager Mohit Pandya, aged 36 years, was second in the Dairy Manager competition, winning $2,625 in prizes and three merit awards.
Currently working for Terracostosa Ltd on the 150ha property, milking 530 cows, Mohit believes good employers who care for their staff and animals are a positive aspect of the business. “They always do the right thing, even if it’s expensive. We have proper systems in place to stay profitable at different pay-outs.”
Originally from India, Mohit holds a Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry from Mumbai, and a Post Grad Diploma in Applied Science from Lincoln University. “I was always amazed by the unique pasture -based dairy farming in New Zealand.”
Mohit began farming in New Zealand in 2009 and was initially shocked by the climate and cold weather. “I love cows and I love working outdoors, although not so much when it’s wet and cold. My wife and daughter love farm life too.”
Waimate farm manager Robert Reyes placed third and won $2,125 in prizes. Robert works for Hayden and Lisa Watson on their 540ha, 1250-cow property.
Born in Saudi Arabia, Robert holds a Degree in Veterinary Medicine and has completed further NZQA and PrimaryITO study. “I am a person who believes in making a big difference and I hope that the work I do coincides with my values and beliefs.”
Robert is passionate about agriculture and hopes to be an inspiration for fellow immigrants to dream big and make a significant contribution to New Zealand.
Future farming goals include contract milking and farm ownership.
Women were represented strongly in the 2019 Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year category, achieving a clean sweep of first, second and third places with 25-year-old Nicola Blowey named the winner.
Nicola is an Assistant Herd Manager on Kieran and Leonie Guiney’s 600-cow, 175ha Fairlie property and won $5,800 in prizes and three merit awards.
Nicola entered the Awards to compare her skills with others in the industry. “Seeing Will Green do so well last year inspired me to enter and seek out new information and increase and consolidate my knowledge.”
“Being part of an industry that fulfils so many key roles for society is very special and it is the relevance of agriculture to every one of us that is so rewarding.”
“The range of knowledge and skills you build working in the industry, and the variety of jobs we do and situations we face each season is really exciting.”
Nicola is secretary of Mackenzie District Young Farmers Club and is in the early stages of planning for a Fairlie Community Ball to raise money for rural mental health.
While initially finding it difficult to gain experience on-farm, Nicola persevered until she had learnt enough to become useful. “It feels really great to have moved through this time and be a really valued and skilled member of the team at herd management level.”
“Just being where I am today is something I’m really proud of. Two and a half years ago I knew next to nothing about strict grass-based systems and now I deal with the day-to-day management of 600 cows on quite a challenging dryland farm,” says Nicola. “I am really excited to progress further and achieve more.”
Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee competition was 24-year-old Hororata 2IC Claire Ritchie, who won $1,625 in prizes and one merit award. Claire currently works for the Theland Purata Farm Group on their 375ha, 1200-cow farm.
The first-time entrant entered the Awards after hearing positive comments about the process from previous entrants. “Being new to the area, I wanted to enter to meet people and benchmark myself against others of a similar skill and experience level.”
Claire holds a Bachelor of AgriScience (Agriculture) from Massey University and considers her rapid progress in the dairy industry as one of her biggest successes, as well as being a finalist for Dairy Trainee of the Year.
Claire says being a female in a male-dominated industry has definitely been a challenge. “Finding the right manager was key – I was given a chance and my opinions were listened to.”
“Entering the Awards have allowed me to realise my potential and current ability. I’ve enjoyed the networking process and I’ve learnt a lot about other career pathways in the industry.”
Third place in the Dairy Trainee category went to 19-year-old 2IC Amy Charman who won $1,250 in prizes. She works for Rob and Vincent Lob on their 113ha, 430-cow Westerfield property.
The Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on April 11 at 912 Te Pirita Road, RD2, Darfield where Share Farmer of the Year Ruwan Wijayasena contract milks. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Matt Redmond, and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Nicola Blowey. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at www.dairyindustryawards.co.nz.
Share Farmer Merit Awards:
• DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Brendan Kelly
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Shaun and Andrea Wise
• Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Ruwan Wijayasena
• Honda Farm Safety, Health & Biosecurity Award – Ruwan Wijayasena
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Elizabeth and Lyndon Grant
• Meridian Farm Environment Award – Tim Richards
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Shaun and Andrea Wise
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Shaun and Andrea Wise
Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
• Property Brokers Most Promising Entrant – Mahraaz Hussein
• P S Alexander & Associates Limited Employee Engagement Award – Mohit Pandya
• TH Enterprises Ltd Leadership Award – Matt Redmond
• FarmRight Feed Management Award – Mohit Pandya
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Mohit Pandya
• Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Mahraaz Hussein
• PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Matt Redmond
• Westpac Financial Management & Planning Award – Matt Redmond
Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
• Canterbury/North Otago DIA Most Promising Entrant Award – Prabhdeep Singh
• Ngai Tahu Farming Farming Knowledge Award – Nicola Blowey
• Craigmore Farming Community and Industry Involvement Award – Nicola Blowey
• Dairy Holdings Ltd Communication and Engagement Award – Claire Ritchie
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Nicola Blowey