2021 West Coast/Top Of The South Dairy Industry Awards Winners Announced

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2021 West Coast/Top Of The South Dairy Industry Awards Winners Announced

18 March 2021

First-time entrants who embrace a sustainable version of farming have been announced as major winners in the 2021 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards. 

Mark Roberts and Sian Madden were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year Category at the West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held in Shantytown on Thursday night. The other big winners were Rachael Lind, who was named the 2021 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Manager of the Year, and Sam Smithers, the 2021 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Mark and Sian are contract milkers and 20% share milkers on Stu and Jan Moir’s (Moir Farms Ltd) 215ha and 377ha Reefton farms milking 1300 cows across the two properties. They won $6,500 in prizes and three merit awards.

“We have a genuine passion for the dairy industry and are committed to farming sustainably and showing others how we do this for future generations.”

“We see ourselves at the front of the pack, farming in a ‘back-to-basics’ way, but also embracing technology and new ways to enhance our on-farm environmental practices,” say the couple.

They formed their business Madden Roberts Farming in 2019 and aim to progress to farm ownership. “We entered the Awards because of our career progression and our desire to represent our area as role models and leaders,” they say.

“Running two farms has made us gain confidence in ourselves and we decided this was our year to step out of our comfort zone and really push ourselves. We have been inspired and encouraged by mentors around us.”

The couple say their business organisation is one of their biggest strengths across both farms. “We have set our business up to run efficiently by creating manuals, templates, policies and procedures that we change to suit each farm.”

Mark runs the physical side of the farm, leaving Sian to do the organisational and paperwork side of things.

“Another strength is our direction,” says Sian. “We are working towards farm ownership and know what we need to do to get there. We have a set timeline and goals.”

Mark and Sian have endured all the challenges farming brings, including their location. “Learning to live on the West Coast and managing our location, in terms of attracting staff, juggling our family and not having a support base around us.”

A desire to see their team at work and make decisions that directly impact their family and the livelihoods of their staff drives them during the harder times.

The couple have clear goals and plans for the future. “We want to grow, own and operate our own family dairy farm on the West Coast that provides sustainable, environmentally-friendly, quality products, allowing us personal, professional and financial freedom,” says Mark.

“We are proud of the team we have built around us and the work environment we provide.”

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda, LIC, Meridian, Ravensdown and Westpac, along with industry partner DairyNZ.

Runner-up in the West Coast/Top of the South Share Farmer category was Kelley Molloy, a first-time entrant who loves seeing her cows every day. “They are what get me up in the morning.”

Kelley is 50/50 sharemilking for Keith and Angela Kelly on their 180ha, 350-cow farm at Whataroa. She won $2,250 in prizes and three merit awards.

A qualified AB technician, Kelley grew up on a sheep and beef farm, and entered the dairy industry when she left school at 17. “I started off as a rookie that knew very little about dairy farming.”

“I genuinely enjoy doing the best I can for my animals, making sure they’re well fed and healthy.”

Kelley would love to change public perception of the dairy industry. “Unfortunately, we are seen in a poor light a lot, lately,” she says. “I wish the public would take the time to come and have a look at our farms and understand how much the farmers genuinely care for their animals.”

“Yes, we are running a business with the animals, however that only drives us to care for them better.”

Kelley is excited about the future of the dairy industry and sees herself being involved in it for many years to come.

“As a farming community, were moving towards farming efficiently and looking after our land which is helping us produce some of the best milk in the world.”

Farming on the West Coast presents unique challenges, and Kelley cites the flooding of her and her partner Richard’s support block as the most challenging situation she’s had to overcome so far.

“Our support block was literally ripped apart by flooding. There was no road access to our animals, we had to fly by helicopter to tend to our animals, the fences and water supply were all gone and 70% of feed was left covered in silt.”

Future farming goals include continuing with a good work/life balance, while paying off her herd. “You need to keep your mind fresh so you can enable yourself to be the best you can be.”

“I’m a hard-working, motivated share milker that is very driven to do the best by my animals, who in return, will do their best for me.”

Third place went to Clay and Joy Paton who are in their second season contract milking for Brent Riley on his 210ha, 640-cow Collingwood property. They won $2000 and two merit awards.

Clay is no stranger to the Awards, previously winning the 2017 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the year, and the 2017 National Dairy Trainee title.

“The Awards are building blocks to build your reputation,” says Clay. “They’ve given us extra incentive to review the way we do things and look for ways to improve.”

Clay and Joy’s future farming goals include farm ownership and to own a top 20% Kiwi cross herd, with a per cow monthly production of >10% variance.

There are a few things the Patons wish they could change about the dairy industry, including the stigma that dairy farming is a last-resort job choice or is for the uneducated.

“It would be great to change the way dairy farmers are unfairly perceived and blamed for many environmental issues.”

Their children and the knowledge they are providing a stable, happy home life provides motivation for the couple during the harder times. “Them, and determination and stubbornness to achieve to the highest standard,” they say.

Looking ahead to the future, the Patons want to be highly-regarded farmers, running a best practice business, where young farmers can go to for advice or guidance.

“We’d like to be in a position to educate and teach non-farmers about what we do and why we do it.”

Third time has proved lucky for the winner of the 2021 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Manager of the Year category who has been runner-up in the Dairy Manager category for the past two years.

Rachael Lind won $6,250 in prizes and four merit awards and is farm manager for Pāmu Farms of New Zealand (formerly Landcorp), on the 460ha, 1060-cow Cape Foulwind property.

Rachael grew up on a sheep farm in the Marlborough Sounds and entered the dairy industry 20 years ago as a Dairy Assistant, progressing through the industry to her Manager’s role.

“The day after I left college I moved to the West Coast to work on a dairy farm for the summer,” she explains. “I fell in love with the cows and haven’t left the industry.”

“It can be challenging being a woman in a male-dominated primary industry particularly when you are in a management role,” says Rachael.

“it’s become easier because if you get out alongside your team and do the mahi with them, even on the worst days, they see what drives you and they become more engaged with the business goals and targets.”

Rachael is proud of turning one of the poorest performing dairy operations in the company to Top Farm in two seasons. “To do that in two seasons is a massive achievement and could only be done because the team is behind me.”

“The respect I have earned from the team on the farm and how they come together to make goals happen is one of the things that drives me,” says Rachael. “When you have an engaged team and are hitting targets and goals it makes the awful days not so bad.”

Rachael would love to change the separation between town and country. “New Zealand is a relatively small nation competing in a huge global industry, and we are continually coming up with ways to produce the highest-quality, environmentally friendly and sustainable product.”

Rachael sees the strength of her business lying in the excellent relationship Pāmu Farms of New Zealand has with their staff. “Pāmu Farms look after their people and because of this support I’m able to support my team the best way I can.”

Seeing more women in the driver’s seat within the dairy industry is really exciting for Rachael, as one of the only female dairy farm managers working for Pāmu.

“I want to drive the ‘wahine waka’ forward and show the young women out there that just because you are a woman doesn’t mean you can’t operate a large-scale dairy operation successfully.”

Runner-up in the Dairy Manager category was Shaun Rhodes, who previously spent ten years working in surveillance for casinos in Christchurch and Australia.

Shaun is currently farm manager for Willie and Michelle Coates on their 375ha, 750-cow Haupiri farm, where he lives with his wife Jacinda and three children. He won $2000 in prizes and one merit award.

Shaun entered the Awards as this is his first season managing and he wanted to identify his strengths and areas to improve.

“The new technologies within the dairy industry are really exciting as they will help to improve farm efficiency as well as obtaining better information and data about the farm and animals,” he says.

“I’d love to change the urban perception of dairy farming. I’m a hard-worker and an early riser and really enjoy seeing my happy cows coming into the shed full of milk.”

Shaun identifies calving as the hardest time of the year and says knowing that it’s for a fixed time period and only one part of a bigger picture gets him through it.

“Most of my challenges have been packing up family to move from farm to farm, and thankfully we haven’t had to do that on a yearly basis.”

Future farming goals include the possibility of taking over the family farm in another four seasons and continuing to achieve a work/life balance. “I have three boys who I enjoy spending as much time as I can with while they are young and still want to hang out with their old man.”

Badri Adhikari placed third and won $1,500 in prizes. He is farm assistant manager for Paul and Debra Magner on their 717ha, 1612-cow Hokitika property.

Originally from Nepal, Badri says ensuring his cows are milked on time and get enough food, rest and good care drives him to keep going in the harder times. “I like to see the cows happy and healthy.”

“There are always ups and downs in farming. A big challenge for me at the moment is my children are stuck in Nepal because of Covid and I am missing them every second.”

Badri holds a Bachelor in Arts and Humanities from Nepal and a Diploma in Travel Tourism and Hospitality Management from England. He has studied consistently since entering the New Zealand dairy industry six years ago and has gained several PrimaryITO qualifications.

“English is not my first language and I’m proud I have completed Level 5,” he says.

Badri believes dairy farming is all about team work and has a supportive and motivating team around him. “Without a good team, goals can’t be achieved.”

Sam Smithers has been named winner in the 2021 West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Trainee of the Year category.

The 24-year-old is a farm assistant for Alan and Zana Berry’s 400ha, 700-cow property in Blackball. He won $6,050 in prizes and two merit awards.

The first-time entrant says he entered to discover how he compares with other trainees and identify areas that need improvement.

Sam is two-thirds through a Bachelor of Science with a double major in Geology and Biology. “I’m proud of my farm-mapping skills, which is a skill not possessed by many farmers.

“Producing a high-quality map is very rewarding.”

Sam believes work/life balance is critical to good mental health and is a keen tramper and snowboarder.

“If work isn’t going so good, someone with hobbies still has something to look forward to at the end of the day.”

Most days Sam wakes up and looks forward to the day ahead, and a duty of care towards the cows and the farm drives him during the harder times.

Sam is excited to see global demand for dairy rising and believes New Zealand is well-positioned to meet this demand.

“Looking ahead, I see myself working to increase production on-farm to meet this demand.”

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee category was 21-year-old 3IC & assistant dairy production manager Rachel Bland, who won $1,500 in prizes.

Rachel works for Pāmu Farms of New Zealand (formerly Landcorp) on the 309ha, 650-cow farm at Reefton.

“I grew up on my parents’ dairy farm on the West Coast and did relief milking for some extra pocket money through high school.”

“I chose farming as my career because of the lifestyle and the fact that every day is different,” says Rachel.

“I’ve always had a love for cows so being able to work with them all day is quite rewarding.”

Future farming goals include upskilling and eventually taking over the family farm. “I’d like to give my mum and dad the retirement they are very much looking forward to.”

Third place in the Dairy Trainee category went to 21-year-old herd manager Stephanie Gray who won $1,250 in prizes and one merit award. She placed third in the same category in 2020.

Stephanie works for Corrigan and Sam Sowman on their 268ha, 700-cow farm in Takaka.

“Through entering the Awards I’ve improved my knowledge and training,” she says. “I’ve also discovered areas I need to work on and how to do that effectively.”

“I’m excited to see the industry take on the challenges of being more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.”

The West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on Wednesday 07 April 2021 at 10.30am at 440 Somerfield Road, RD1, Reefton S/N Westland Milk Products 529, where Share Farmers of the Year, Sian Madden and Mark Roberts milk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Rachel Lind and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Sam Smithers. 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 – Sian Madden and Mark Roberts
· Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Sian Madden and Mark Roberts
· Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Clay and Joy Paton
· Honda Farm Safety, Health & Biosecurity Award – Clay and Joy Paton
· LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Kelley Molloy
· Meridian Farm Environment Award – Kelley Molloy
· Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Kelley Molloy
· Westpac Business Performance Award – Sian Madden and Mark Roberts 

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:

· PGG Wrightson – Livestock and Real Estate Most Promising Entrant – Robyn Mare
· STIHL Shop – Greymouth and Richmond Employee Engagement Award – Rachael Lind
· Cuffs Chartered Accountant and Business Advisors Leadership Award – Rachael Lind
· SealesWinslow Feed Management Award – Rachael Lind
· DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Rachael Lind
· Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Marlene Bourke
· NZDIA Power Play Award – Shaun Rhodes
· Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award – Marlene Bourke 

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

· Greenfield Motors Most Promising Entrant Award – Delvalee Bennett
· Dairy Holdings Limited Farming Knowledge Award – Sam Smithers
· Aotea Electric Westland Ltd Community & Industry Involvement Award – Stephanie Gray
· Zealan Wireless Internet Communication & Engagement Award – Ben Tytler
· DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Sam Smithers