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Northland Dairy Industry award winners deeply connected to land

The 2024 Northland Share Farmers of the Year are proud of their high-quality and efficient milk production and remain dedicated to on-going improvements to ensure their long-term competitiveness in the global market.

Jeremy and Kate Mounter were named winners of the 2024 Northland Share Farmer of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands in Waitangi on Saturday night. The other major winners were Kieran McCahon, the 2024 Northland Dairy Manager of the Year, with Quinn Hewlett named the region’s Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Due to the minimum number of finalists not being reached, Northland Share Farmer and Dairy Trainee entrants 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.

Jeremy and Kate are first-time entrants who feel a strong sense of control and alignment with their career path.

“We’ve been on Pepper Farm for three and a half seasons and spent the first two seasons shaping the farm into our desired vision.”

“In our third year we really capitalised on this and now we are really reaping the benefits of our hard work and dedication,” they say.

“We’ve surrounded ourselves with a community of exceptional individuals and we wanted to showcase the outstanding efforts of our whole team and all the experts we collaborate with.”

They 50/50 sharemilk 330 cows on Moss and Margaret Pepper’s 131ha Kaeo property. They won $8,250 in prizes and four merit awards.

The Mounters would like to see improvements to roster and housing within the industry.

“Although major improvements have been made in the industry, people are still expected to work long hours for days on end and then return home to substandard housing.”

“We’re pleased to say this is not the case for our team! One of the best things about owning your own business is being the employer you always wished you had!”

Kate and Jeremy say it’s great that the industry is striving to become cleaner or greener, and that all farmers are working together to help make dairying more sustainable.

“We are stewards of the earth, entrusted with the task of nurturing it and ensuring its health and productivity for future generations.”

A combination of passion, a deep-rooted connection to the land, a sense of responsibility for their livestock plus a strong sense of community and purpose sees the couple through the tougher days.

“You have to have a love of the animals and be proud of the land under your care, making sure you give both an equal chance to thrive.”

“If you get this right, your business will thrive too.”

Future farming goals purchasing a grazing block with their own home on it, giving them the means to breed more dairy and beef young stock.

Jeremy (52) and Kate (47) are proud they are running a profitable business in a time of rising costs and uncertainty.

“We’re also pleased to be lowering our nitrogen input and breaking farm records by milking cows once-a-day on a farm that has traditionally been milked twice-a-day.”

“We are also thrilled with the connections we have formed in the industry and cherish our relationship with the Pepper family.”

Jeremy and Kate would like to pay tribute to their farm owners, Moss and Margaret Pepper, and their family.

“They have been the heart and soul of this farm for over 50 years and are progressive farmers who welcomed us with our once-a-day system, despite the fact that their farm had been milked twice a day since forever,” says Kate.

“Moss has been planting native trees on his farm long before the world had even heard of the word sustainability,” she says.

“We promise we will always be responsible guardians of his cherished land.”

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.

Runners-up in the Northland Share Farmer of the Year category, presented by Fonterra, were Jordan Brown & Samantha Brown who are 50/50 sharemilking on McIntyre Farms Ltd 120ha farm at Okaihau, milking 240 cows.

They won $1,625 in prizes and two merit awards.

The 2024 Northland Dairy Manager of the Year is Kieran McCahon, who won $5,500 and four merit awards.

The first-time entrant grew up on a farm and holds a Bachelor of Agriscience majoring in Agriculture and a Masters in Management, majoring in Agribusiness.

He spent two years as a Solutions and Development specialists with DairyNZ. “After a number of years pushing a pen, I needed a physical outlet.”

“Although farming is often physically demanding with long hours, there is something very fulfilling about a day’s physical work, when you can see the results of your efforts,” he explains.

“When that compounds over multiple year, it’s pretty cool to see what you can achieve.”

The 27-year-old sees the future of dairying as an exciting time. “There’s no doubt that farming is a challenging career, but with great challenge comes great opportunity.”

“The future requires leaders with a strong understanding of farm systems to be able to identify the core challenges we face, the opportunities that exist, to problem solve and develop future solutions to these challenges.”

“Whether it’s on-farm or off it, I want to be part of developing these solutions.”

Kieran would like to see forward contracts and milk supply agreements introduced, providing all farmers with a guaranteed milk price at the beginning of the season.

“Farmers currently must make season defining decisions with a crystal ball about what the value of our product will be nearly a year later.”

During tougher times, Kieran’s sense of responsibility to his cows gets him up every morning. “I also know my little girl’s at home are relying on me to provide for her future. Her running to the door to greet me in the evenings is enough motivation to encourage me through the hard times.”

Future farming goals include building equity in the short-term, with a longer-term goal of land ownership.

Runner up in the Dairy Manager category was awarded to Courtney West who won $1,675 in prizes and two merit awards.

The 25-year-old is farm manager on Greg Partington and Nicola Murray’s 147ha, 350-cow Tomarata farm. She placed third in the 2023 Manawatū Dairy Trainee category.

Courtney holds a Diploma in Adventure Tourism Management and has completed PrimaryITO Levels 1-4.

“Until 2020, I worked in Queenstown in zipline, jetboating and skydiving companies,” she says. “I needed a career change when covid destroyed the tourism industry and I haven’t looked back.”

Future farming goals include continuing to gain more knowledge and skills in her current role.

Dyllan Matthews was placed third and won $1,250. He is farm manager on Roger and Rachel Kidd’s 376ha Te Kopuru farm, milking 670 cows.

The Northland Dairy Trainee of the Year is Quinn Hewlett who is farm assistant for the Rangihamama Omapere Trust’s 560-cow, 219ha property at Kaikohe. He won $6,750 in prizes and one merit award.

Quinn enjoys being around animals and is proud of the knowledge he has gained during his short time in the industry.

“I started out green and now I can pretty much do everything on our farm.”

Quinn has completed PrimaryITO Level 3 Agriculture and is currently studying towards Level 4.

The 18-year-old is es excited about the new technology coming through the industry and enjoys the camaraderie with his workmates.

He cites his ADHD as both a challenge and a strength. “It’s been an issue but over time I have set plans in place to help me.”

“I cope well in high-stress environments, which is helpful at work when things go sideways.”

Future farming goals include progression to a farm manager role.

Runner-up in the Northland Dairy Trainee category was Michaela McCracken who is farm assistant on Greg and Ingrid McCracken’s 17ha Wellsford property, milking 370 cows. She won $1,250 in prizes and two merit awards.

The Northland Dairy Industry Awards field day will be held at 10.00am on 26th March 2024 at 548 Matauri Bay Road, RD1, Kaeo S/N Fonterra 10461, where Northland Share Farmers of the Year Jeremy and Kate Mounter share milk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Kieran McCahon and the Dairy Trainee of the Year Quinn Hewlett. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at www.dairyindustryawards.co.nz.

Share Farmer Merit Awards:

DairyNZ – People and Culture Award Jeremy and Kate Mounter Ecolab Total Farm Hygiene Award Maria Puig & Mauricio Castellano Federated Farmers Leadership Award Maria Puig & Mauricio Castellano Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award Kate and Jeremy Mounter

LIC – Animal Wellbeing, Recording and Productivity AwardJordan Brown & Samantha Brown

Meridian Environmental Sustainability AwardJeremy and Kate Mounter Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award Jeremy and Kate Mounter Rabobank Business Performance Award Jordan Brown & Samantha Brown

NZ Petrol Refunds Emerging Talent AwardMaria Puig & Mauricio Castellano

Dairy Manager Merit Awards

DairyNZ Practical Skills AwardKieran McCahon

Fonterra Dairy Management AwardCourtney West

Webb Ross McNab Kilpatrick Environment Sustainability AwardKieran McCahon

NZDIA Committee Pasture and Feed Management AwardKieran McCahon

FMG People and Leadership AwardKieran McCahon

CowManager Personal Planning and Financial Management AwardCourtney West

Craigs Investment Partners Emerging Talent AwardSam Mason

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

DairyNZ Practical Skills AwardMichaela McCracken

Craigs Investment Partners Emerging Talent AwardSaffrin Sutcliffe

Piako Tractors Northland (Bryant Tractors 1983 Ltd) Farming Knowledge AwardQuinn Hewlett

Northern Wairoa Vet Club Association Ltd Communication & Industry Involvement Award Michaela McCracken

 

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