14 March 2019
A first-time entrant with a passion for dairy farming, the environment and animals has won the 2019 Central Plateau Share Farmer of the Year.
Tom Bridgens was announced the winner of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year competition at the Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua last night. The other big winners were Laurence Walden, who was named the 2019 Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year, and Harry Phipps, the 2019 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year.
The 22-year old is Contract Milking 300 cows on Rex and Loris Bates’ Tokoroa 80ha property and won $15,480 in prizes and four merit awards.
Tom grew up in a dairy farming family. He spent his spare time on the farm and began relief milking at age 13. Upon leaving school at 16, he began work as a farm assistant before leaving on his OE to Europe, Asia and Australia, then returning to New Zealand in 2018 to contract milk.
Tom entered the Awards to streamline his business and work on his weaknesses. “As it’s my first year in a manager’s role, I wanted to run my business the right way from the start,” he says. “The Awards are a great way to move forward in the dairy industry, to get my name out there and make my CV stand out for my next step.”
Future farming goals for Tom include sharemilking by 2020 and farm ownership within 10 years.
“I’ve had to overcome people telling me I am too young and inexperienced to take on a contract milking position,” says Tom. “I’m proud of myself for travelling, meeting new people and making amazing memories before knuckling down and taking on the responsibility.”
Tom believes one of the strengths of his business lies in communication. “The communication between myself and the farm owner is crucial to ensure every decision within the business will maximise profitability for both of us.”
Tom says he loves everything about dairy farming. “I want my passion for farming to grow and to keep absorbing information and knowledge. I’d like to eventually give back to others and share my passion with others in the industry.”
“There’s a huge sense of achievement after a long hard day – it makes it all worth it for me.”
The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian Energy, Ravensdown and Westpac along with industry partners DairyNZ and Primary ITO.
Runners-up in the Central Plateau Share Farmer of the Year competition were Anthony and Danelle Kiff, who won $6,880 in prizes and two merit awards.
The couple are contract milkers on the Tauhara North No2 Trust 230ha property at Tokoroa, milking 600 cows. Anthony has entered the Awards five times and was the 2017 Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year.
The couple say one of the strengths of their business are the people in their team and the ability to break down big problems into little pieces. “Our support network is of high calibre and we are able to bounce ideas off them and talk about any issues that may arise.”
Future farming goals for Anthony (34) and Danelle (30) include beginning a Dairy Academy on their farm for the Trust, training 18-25 year olds.
The third placegetters in the 2019 Central Plateau Share Farmer category are Bruce and Jo Husband, who are contract milkers on Bob and Bridget Hone’s 195ha, 600-cow Ngakuru property. They won $5,130 in prizes and one merit award.
The Husbands find the defined career path of the dairy industry appealing, with rewards reflecting the effort put in. “It’s a very supportive industry, with discussion groups and rural professionals all willing to talk and share their knowledge,” they say.
“We love the different jobs for different seasons, and that we can be home with our family for breakfast.”
The winner of the 2019 Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year competition, Laurence Walden, was runner-up in the 2010 Dairy Trainee category and says benefits include becoming known within the industry as someone who is passionate about dairying farming, as well as receiving feed-back on areas he could improve on and stepping outside his comfort zone.
“I never knew what career path I wanted. I was a bushman for seven years but the industry was quite unstable,” says Laurence. “A rugby mate was a dairy farmer and asked me to give him a hand. I thought, wow, this is pretty cool, I could do this, and I haven’t looked back since.”
The 40-year-old is passionate about achieving high standards in the dairy industry. “I’m a proud husband and father to five kids – I like to think I lead by example.”
Laurence is currently studying towards a Diploma of Agribusiness Management. He won $9,100 in prizes and two merit awards
Laurence is the Farm Manager for the Tauhara Farms Ltd Partnership 365ha, 1040-cow farm at Taupo. He is currently in his third season and is proud of his career progression. “I’m luck to work for Tauhara Farms, they always provide the resources to achieve high results, such as good machinery and technology.”
“They have supported me to enter the Awards and have given me so much opportunity as a manager,” he says. “Next season I’ve been offered the opportunity to run both dairy farms on the Tauhara Farms Limited partnership. This is a big challenge that I’m really excited about.”
31-year-old Kinleith Farm Manager Chance Church placed second and won $4,120 in prizes. Chance works on Richard Maxwell’s 378ha farm, milking 1250 cows.
“Entering the Awards has been a good way to get to know your business and it’s been great for networking,” he says.
Farming has always been prominent in Chance’s life. “I grew up around farming and feel it’s a good career to grow and support my family. I love the outdoors, so farming fits with my lifestyle.”
“The early mornings can be a challenge at times but you get into the rhythm of things over time,” says Chance. “Coping with stress, especially over the busy seasons, is also a challenge for both myself and my team.”
Chance credits his team as a strength of the business. “We’re very good at interacting about what’s actually happening on the farm,” he says. “Our business is strong in profit maximization and health and safety practice.”
Chance enjoys spending time with his wife Rachael (31) and their five children ranging in age from 2 years to 15 years old. “My wife and I have worked hard to get where we are, we enjoy the challenge and are always looking for new ways to improve.”
Third place in the Dairy Manager category went to Bevan Samuel. The 50-year-old is Farm Manager on (Pamu) Landcorp Farming’s 334ha Reporoa property, milking 820 cows.
Bevan says entering the Awards for a third time has been good for him as he has been able to think even more holistically and concentrate on areas that judges have identified as needing attention. “The Awards help to make our business stronger and the farm and team more efficient.”
The benefits of dairy farming outweigh the challenges for Bevan, who says he has seen his fair share of droughts, long wet periods and financial trials. “They all build resilience and perseverance.”
“I have been fortunate that I have had employers who have believed in me and supported my endeavours.”
The 2019 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year, Harry Phipps, felt like he had nothing to lose and everything to gain from entering the Awards and saw them as an opportunity to receive valuable feedback from industry experts.
“I was hoping to better myself and continue to grow and progress in the dairy industry,” Harry explains.
Harry is Herd Manager for Gary and Kathy O’Donnell milking 400 cows on the 140ha Rotorua farm. He won $5,770 in prizes and two merit awards.
Harry says he chose farming as a career initially just be employed. “Then I saw the clear career pathways within the industry and the opportunities dairy farming offered to people who were motivated and wanted to be the best they could be.”
“The wet 2018 spring was definitely one of the biggest challenges I have to face,” says Harry. “It rained almost everyday and being short on feed pushed me far. I surrounded myself with positive people and with heaps of self-drive I was able to make it through.”
Harry holds a Diploma in Sports Management and is currently studying towards his Level 4 PrimaryITO Dairy Farming.
The 20-year-old is proud to have been offered a herd manager role. “It was a great feeling to be recognised by someone who I have a lot of respect for.”
“Feed management was a daunting task for me early on, and I knew I would have to step up in my new role,” says Harry. “I’ve been very proud of the progress I have made in managing feed over the season.”
Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee competition was Claire Douglas, who is 2IC on the Theland Farm Group’s 320ha, 860-cow farm in Rotorua. She won $2,220 in prizes.
Farming has always appealed to the 22-year-old, who loves being outdoors and being a team player. “Working on a big farm with multiple staff members provides this challenge,” says Claire. “Being able to make strategic decisions every day and watching your hard work pay off daily, with milk solids going into the vat, is very rewarding.”
Claire holds a Diploma in Agriculture from Massey University and completed Levels 3 and 4 at Taratahi and was selected to be part of the Central North Island Dairy Academy in 2017. “I was employed in my current role through the course.”
Third place in the Dairy Trainee competition went to 24-year-old Assistant Dairy Production Manager Bronte Marquet who won $1,520 in prizes and one merit award. She works for Pamu Farms on the 340ha, 900-cow farm in Reporoa.
“I’ve been in the dairy industry for three years and entered the Awards to benchmark myself against others employed in similar positions,” says Bronte. “I’ve been able to identify areas I need to improve on.”
The Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on April 10 at 168 Matarawa Road, RD1, Tokoroa where Share Farmers of the Year, Tom Bridgens, contract milks. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Laurence Walden and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Harry Phipps. 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 – Bruce and Jo Husband
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Tom Bridgens
• Federated Farmers Leadership Awards – Anthony and Danelle Kiff
• Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – Grant and Anika Sandford
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Tom Bridgens
• Meridian Farm Environment Award – Anthony and Danelle Kiff
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Tom Bridgens
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Tom Bridgens
Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
• Vetora BOP Employee Engagement Award – Chance Church
• Perrin Ag Consultants Ltd Leadership Award – Alexandra Lond
• James and Son Feed Management Award – Laurence Walden
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Laurence Walden
• Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Bevan Samuel
• PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Nicholas Mitchell
• Westpac Personall Planning and Financial Management Award – Chance Church
Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
• BlackmanSpargo Rural Law Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Ben Purua
• T H Enterprises LTD Farming Knowledge Award – Harry Phipps
• Rotorua Lakes Council Community & Industry Involvement Awards – Tessa Inskeep
• BOP Regional Council Communication and Engagement Award – Bronte Marquet
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Harry Phipps