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Waikato Dairy Industry Award winners announced

The major winners in the 2024 Waikato Dairy Industry Awards are proof that poor decisions of the past can be overcome to carve out a successful career in milking cows.

Logan and Sian Dawson were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year category at the Waikato Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at Claudelands Event Centre on Wednesday evening. The other big winners were Matthew Macdonald, who became the 2024 Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year, and Kirwyn Ellis, the 2024 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year.

Logan has come a long way from the young man who made a poor decision while pig-hunting and is now a dairy farmer who has elevated animal welfare to the forefront of his business.

He declared the historic charges when entering the Awards and believes it benefits everyone to value the animals that farmers have the privilege of caring for.

“Just over a decade ago, when I was in my early twenties, I found myself on the receiving end of animal cruelty charges and immediately took full responsibility for my actions,” he says.

“I am so sorry and have used the experience as an opportunity for personal growth and I lead our team to diligently display best animal welfare practices.”

As a husband and father of five, Logan says he is acutely aware of how important it is to not only surround his family with genuine wholesome people, but to be that person for those around them as well.

“I wanted my kids to find something positive about me when googling and I’ve spent the past decade trying to be the best role model I can be for them and my team.”

“My desire is to be the best example to my legacy that I can be.”

“Taking part in the awards will hopefully redefine me or at least balance out the past and prove that you can turn your life around.”

“I have been able to start breeding a herd of my own, something I’m very passionate about, and have worked my way up to an equity partnership sharemilking job that is incredibly fulfilling.”

Logan and Sian are equity partners and 50/50 share milkers for Jim and Sue van der Poel on their 333ha, 1350-cow farm. They won $19,960 in prizes and three merit awards.

The couple believe the Awards programme has pushed them out of their comfort zone, but they enjoyed the challenge and have grown a lot through the process.

Logan (36) is a third generation farmer who grew up on the family dairy farm and has been farming since leaving high school.

“I’ve worked my way up from farm assistant to herd manager, 2IC, then lower-order sharemilking which led to larger scale contract milking that’s allowed us to grow into our current equity partner sharemilking role.”

Logan has achieved NZ Certificate in Agriculture Levels 2, 3 and 4, NZ Certificate in Production Management Level 5 and NZ Certificate in Agribusiness Management Level 5.

Sian (36) had a very different upbringing, raised as a city girl in Sydney. “I’ve been a photographer for the last 10 years and am kept very busy raising our five children.”

The couple enjoy the variety of physical and mental work that farming gives them and the connection with their animals and the land.

“We get to feed the world and live a honest and wholesome life at the same time.”

The couple look forward to watching technology advancing and new ideas being tested to increase efficiency as well as reduce environmental impact.

“We see ourselves as a part of that leading edge, whether doing trial work or implementing better practices and helping farmers toward a sustainable future.”

One of the biggest challenges the couple have faced was the 2016 pay out. “It changed the way we now structure our business, the way we operate with minimizing expenses, personal drawings and revolutionised our risk assessment and decision-making process.”

They are proud they have achieved a large-scale sharemilking equity partnership and hitting 130% of liveweight in production last year.

The Dawsons identify the strong relationship with their equity partner as a strength of their business along with profitable and proven farm systems.

“Farming is certainly challenging at times but every difficulty is an opportunity for growth.”

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.

Stephen and Sophie Smyllie were named Runner-up in the Waikato Share Farmer category. Stephen was the 2019 Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Trainee of the Year and 2020 Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Manager of the Year category. The couple won $8,428 in prizes and three merit awards.

“Entering the Awards in the early stages of my career had a huge impact, adding value to my CV and allowing me to progress in the industry, however the most value was from learning more about my farming business through the in-depth judging criteria,” says Stephen.

“With entering comes great opportunities, the ability to meet like-minded people at similar stages in their careers from all over the country as well as gain some amazing mentors and great prizes!

Stephen and Sophie are contract milking 325 cows on Stephen Weir’s 98.3ha Manawaru property.

“Our farm team is the key to our work life balance and we are making sure we are doing everything we can to create an environment that allows us to best support our people, animals and land that we are farming, setting us up for a successful career and life.”

The couple, both aged 26, say increasing environmental pressures are challenging New Zealand farmers to do better and be better than ever before.

“For us, it is an exciting opportunity as we continually look at ways of being more efficient with everything we are doing on-farm, to ensure we are more sustainable for generations to come.”

Stephanie Kay placed third in the Share Farmer category and is a percentage sharemilker for Sue Broomfield on her 68ha Morrinsville property, milking 220 cows. She won $6,104 and two merit awards.

The 32-year-old entered the Trainee and Farm Manager categories over 10 Years ago and

loved both experiences.

“Entering exposed me to like-minded people and gave me a chance to challenge myself

and grow personally,” she says.

“In more recent years I entered the Share Farmer category and found it hugely beneficial to my business as it is a chance to sit down and focus on improving all aspects of my business.”

The winner of the 2024 Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year category is Matthew Macdonald. He won $9,215 in prizes and three merit awards.

He is Farm Manager for David and Jenny Macdonald on their 74ha Hamilton farm, milking 255 cows.

Born and raised on the family farm, Matthew had a passion for farming since a young age however a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in his first year at secondary school changed his career pathway into the dairy industry.

“I required a stem cell transplant and radiation meaning leaving school to milk cows wasn’t an option due to ongoing fatigue and recovery.”

Instead he chose to complete a Bachelor of Agriscience majoring in Agriculture at Massey University, and was awarded the DairyNZ scholarship for the full three years of study.

He worked on DairyNZ dairy farms after graduating before accepting the opportunity to head home to manage the family farm.

Matthew says he enjoys working outdoors and with animals and enjoys the science behind managing pasture and getting milk in the vat.

Working alongside knowledgeable people in their field of expertise and learning off them is something he also relishes.

“Being part of the backbone of New Zealand and providing food and fibre to the work is an awesome job to be in.”

Matthew sees a bright future for the NZ dairy industry with the advancement of technology changing so fast. “The challenge will be making technology affordable and keeping past and future farmers upskilled so they can utilise new technology efficiently and effectively.

Personally, overcoming cancer and being able to meet the physical demands of farming has been Matthew’s biggest achievement.

“On-farm, a drought then too much rain then a cyclone during my first season made feed management very challenging.”

The 25-year-old believes working within a profit-driven business is a strength as is it being a third generation family run farm. “The work I do and the responsibilities I have are family centric.

He also began beekeeping a few years ago and now has 30 hives, selling honey locally under the Farmermac Honey brand.

“Being involved in the Awards has helped me formulate my own philosophy of farming and justify the reason why I operate the way I do.”

Otorohanga Farm Manager Annie Gill was runner-up in the Dairy Manager category, winning $4,450 in prizes and one merit award. She works on Doug and Lorraine Courtman’s 56ha, 142-cow property.

Annie was runner up in the 2021 and 2022 Waikato Dairy Trainee category and says entering the Awards gave her the opportunity to make connections throughout the industry.

“I gained presentation skills and learnt to communicate in a formal situation and learnt to perform under pressure.”

Future farming goals include progressing to sharemilking and building equity and continue breeding.

Farm manager Zac van Dorsten placed third and won $2,885min prizes and one merit award. He works on Louise and Tony Collingwood’s 165ha, 470-cow farm at Otorohanga.

The 2024 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year is Kirwyn Ellis who is herd manager for Hamish and Sheree Germann on their 130ha property at Pirongia milking 475 cows. He won $7,290 in prizes and two merit awards.

. The 20-year-old placed third in the same category last years and says he learnt so much from last year’s programme, it was a ‘no-brainer’ to enter again.

“It’s such a great chance to test yourself against fellow trainees and is a great indication of where you stack up amongst your peers.”

“That, combined with the written feedback you receive, is such an awesome opportunity to better yourself and I’d recommend it to anyone regardless of how they think they will place.”

Growing up on a dairy farm with a lifelong interest and connection to dairying, Kirwyn always had a strong passion for animals and the outdoors.

“I’m in no doubt of the value dairy brings to New Zealand which gives me confidence in choosing dairy as a career.”

“I’m motivated by the opportunities that exist in both personal development and financial progression and enjoy making a real difference on a day-to-day basis in caring for the cows whilst working strategically to provide a product to global consumers that is both efficiently produced and environmentally responsible.”

Kirwyn is acutely aware of the ongoing challenge relating to the general public perception of the dairy industry and believes a level of responsibility must be maintained to ensure environmental sustainability.

“As I work through my second full dairy season, I’m proud of my growth as I gather knowledge in some of the key farm management animal husbandry areas.”

“I’m a fifth-generation farmer and I have a strong ambition to progress into farm ownership and am committed to the steps that I will take to learn, grow and progress to my ultimate goal.”

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee category was Jack Brittenden who won $2,540 in prizes and one merit award.

Jack is herd manager for James and Kirsty Dallinger on their 195ha, 500-cow Maungatautari property. Future farming goals include farm ownership with a shorter-term goal of sharemilking by age 25.

“I’m really excited to move into management next season on a 500-cow farm.

Third place in the Dairy Trainee category went to 20-year-old farm assistant Brad Seager, winning $1,290 in prizes. He works on Belinda Wilson’s 251ha, 780-cow Tokanui farm.

The Waikato Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on 03 April 2024 at 10.00am at 134 Ngahinapouri Road, RD 2, Ohaupo S/N Fonterra 73401 where Waikato Share Farmers of the Year, Logan and Sian Dawson share milk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Matthew MacDonald and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Kirwyn Ellis. 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 Stephen & Sophie Smyllie

Ecolab Total Farm Hygiene Award Logan & Sian Dawson

Federated Farmers Leadership Award Stephen & Sophie Smyllie

Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award Stephanie Kay

LIC – Animal Wellbeing, Recording and Productivity Award Logan & Sian Dawson

Meridian Environmental Sustainability Award Logan & Sian Dawson

Ravensdown Sustainable Pasture Award Stephen & Sophie Smyllie

ASB Business Performance Award Stephanie Kay

NZ Farmers Livestock Emerging Talent Award Sicelo Nene

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:

DeLaval Livestock Management Award Matthew Macdonald

Fonterra Dairy Management Award Zac Van Dorsten

Trinity Lands Environmental Sustainability Award Matthew Macdonald

Bluegrass Contracting Pasture & Feed Management Award Annie Gill

Blackman Spargo Rural Law People & Leadership Award Sarah Fagg

CowManager Personal Planning & Financial Management Award Matthew Macdonald

CooperAitken Emerging Talent Award Cullum Havea

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

DairyNZ Practical Skills Award Kirwyn Ellis

Pioneer Emerging Talent Award Sam Stewart

Shoof New Zealand Farming Knowledge Award Kirwyn Ellis

Waikato Farmers Trust Communication & Industry Involvement Award Jack Brittenden

 

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