07 April 2021
A couple who are passionate about their cows and achieving their goals have won the 2021 Central Plateau Share Farmer of the Year title.
Andrea and Blair Muggeridge were announced the winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year category at the Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua on Wednesday night. The other big winners were Mark Rivers, who was named the 2021 Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year, and Tayla Flight, the 2021 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year.
Andrea and Blair won the Central Plateau Farm Manager of the Year title in 2013 and believe entering the Awards has enabled them to analyse their business and put procedures and policies in place. “It’s been an excellent opportunity for us to see the full potential of the farm,” they say.
The couple are equity partners with Trevor and Harriet Hamilton, on the Golden Springs 285ha Reporoa property, milking 1080 cows. They won $14,399 in prizes and five merit awards.
Both Blair and Andrea grew up on dairy farms, and while Andrea chose a path of hotel management and sales for a time, Blair has been farming since leaving school, with a break to complete a building apprenticeship.
Andrea joined Blair on the farm when their son Braxton (9) was born, and now Fletcher (6) and Aaliyah (4) also enjoy the farming lifestyle.
“We wanted the same life for our kids as we had,” they say. “We love the freedom farming brings, the animals, the building of relationships with our team and the overall running of a business.”
The couple wish they could change public perception of farmers, especially around the subject of polluting waterways.
“Dairy farming is more of a lifestyle than a normal job. We are passionate about achieving our goals, not only personally but also for the farm.”
The couple have faced challenges along the way including reconfiguring the Golden Springs farm in their first year and learning how to build a team that follows the same culture.
The Muggeridges are proud of achieving equity partnership and their successful business with excellent overall production, and are excited about the future of the dairy industry.
“We would like our farm to be a multi-generation business which will enable us to support our children in their future business endeavours.”
Blair and Andrea believe a strength of their business lies in human resources. “We have great stake holders and supportive people around us that can guide and lead us.” they say
The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda, LIC, Meridian Energy, Ravensdown and Westpac along with industry partner DairyNZ.
Runners-up in the Central Plateau Share Farmer of the Year competition were Kevin and Monica Campbell who won $4,950 in prizes and one merit award.
The couple are 50/50 sharemilkers on the Herewahine Trust 150ha Rotorua property, milking 330 cows and have entered the Awards once previously, in 2014.
“Entering the Awards provides a good opportunity to be critical of our business and encourage us to continually improve everything from day-to-day operations, health and safety and our environmental footprint,” they say.
“Exactly where the New Zealand dairy industry is headed in the future feels uncertain at present, however the opportunities to continue to develop our holistic approach and provide high-end, grass-fed dairy to a diverse range of customers is exciting,” says Kevin.
“New Zealand’s point of difference in grass-fed dairy is where I see our business contributing to a great industry.”
The love for their animals and striving to do better is what truly drives Kevin and Monica, especially during the harder times.
“We approach harder times with a practical attitude, whilst holding onto the belief that if we keep trying ad keep a positive outlook, things will get better,” say the couple.
“Understanding that sometimes we need to change to get through challenging times. Even though that change can be painful, it can be good in the long run.”
The Campbells are proud of their strong relationship with their farm owners and of their record production achievements on past and present farms.
Future farming goals include working towards farm ownership or equity partnership whilst continuing to develop their skills to ensure a sustainable enterprise. “We value the privilege of being able to operate a business with our animals, our family and the land.”
The third placegetter in the 2021 Central Plateau Share Farmer category is Maurice Bryant, who is sharemilking on Andrew and Hazel Kusabs’ 138ha Rotorua property, milking 400 cows. Maurice was runner-up in the 2020 Central Plateau Share Farmer category. He won $3,250 in prizes and one merit award.
“Entering the Awards has helped me to understand more about my business and implement strong processes. The benefits from the learning opportunities the Awards programme brings are huge.”
Maurice believes his personality and passion for farming stand him in good stead and means he has good relationships with stakeholders. “It allows me to enjoy the business and be excited about challenges.”
The winner of the 2021 Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year competition, Mark Rivers, is a former Contiki bus driver in Europe and New Zealand who says he entered the Awards to gain some perspective on the next step for his family and identify areas to improve.
Mark grew up on a dairy farm and was always helping out from a young age. “I attended Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in 2000 and then began work on a 300-cow farm which grew to 500-cows the next season.
“I left the industry for 12 years and worked in the tourism industry as a Contiki bus driver in Europe and New Zealand,” Mark explains. “I came back to the dairy industry in 2016 as I enjoy working outdoors and doing the variety of jobs needed to be a farmer.”
“I want my children to grow up in the country as I did.”
Mark lives with his partner Monique and their children Bodhi (3) and Thea (1) on Brett and Karen Sterritt’s 98ha 400-cow Atiamuri property where he works as farm manager. He won $8,150 in prizes and two merit awards.
Returning to the dairy industry after time away presented challenges. “Different systems had developed and I came back to a system 4/5 farm which was different to the system 1/2 style of farming I grew up with,” says Mark.
“I’m pretty proud that in my first season of managing I helped improve the six-week in calf rate from 69% to 77%.”
Alongside water irrigation over 90ha, Mark credits the farm’s herd home as a strength of the business. “It allows us to house cows overnight during the winter months and limit damage to pastures as well as efficiently use our supplements,” he says. “We also calve in the herd homes which is easier on the cows and calves, not to mention the staff.”
Mark is excited about the technological advancements that enable farmers to make real-time decisions, leading to a more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly farming operation.
Mark enjoys spending time with his family and playing two or three games a year for the local cricket club.
“My family drives me during the harder times and I genuinely enjoy getting up to the challenges of farming. I know the hard times are going to make me better equipped to make decisions in the future.”
Reporoa Farm Manager Harpreet Shahi Singh placed second and won $3,350 in prizes and one merit award. Harpreet works on Robert and Hayley Hathaway’s 78ha farm, milking 250 cows.
Harpreet began in his current role in 2016 after moving from India in 2010. “Prior to coming to New Zealand, I used to run our small family unit,” he explains. “I have been involved in farming since my childhood.”
There have been many challenges faced and overcome in his career-to-date, including overcoming homesickness and challenges associated with immigration. “I’m proud I came to a different country and achieved NZQA Dairy Farming Level 4 and a management position,” says Harpreet.
“I want to be a reputable dairy farmer and love to contribute to my community. Dairy farming is my passion and I would like to establish an enviro-friendly farm for coming generations.”
Third place in the Dairy Manager category went to Jaspreet Singh Dhanoa who is Farm Assistant Manager on Nick Pepper and Michelle Hine’s 295ha Whakamaru property, milking 750 cows. He won $2,625 in prizes and one merit award.
Jaspreet came to New Zealand in 2013 from Punjab, India (where his wife Maninder still lives), to study Applied Technology in Wood Manufacturing at Toi Ohomai in Rotorua.
“After completing my study, I began working on a dairy farm short-term, and soon realised this is my preferred career path.”
Jaspreet finds frustrating that the non-dairy industry doesn’t understand dairy farmers. “Farmers are very easy to be blamed.”
“I enjoy the new technology available in the dairy industry and enjoy working with it. I have a creative mind and really enjoy using the new technology.”
The 2021 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year, Tayla Flight, is a second-time entrant who has maintained the connections she made from her first time entering. “I’ve had job offers and being an entrant has been a topic brought up by various employers as a standout attribute on my CV.”
Tayla is Farm Manager for Jared Seymour milking 220 cows on his Atiamuri farm. She won $6,200 in prizes and one merit award.
“I’ve always wanted a job where I’m happy. I love animals and get to hang out with 220 cows and my dog every single day. If they’re happy, I’m happy,” says Tayla.
“I excelled academically at school and was always expected to go to university. I didn’t always know I wanted to be a dairy farmer, but I love that you are rewarded depending on how hard you work and you can progress at the pace you’re willing or feel comfortable to,” she says.
“You don’t have to study for years to prove yourself. You prove yourself when the cows come into the shed happy and healthy and milk is going into the vat.”
The number of women taking leading roles in the dairy industry makes Tayla feel excited about the future of the New Zealand dairy industry. “Ash-Leigh Campbell and Tracey Brown are not only inspiring women in dairy, but also so forward-thinking environmentally. Fitting in with women like this would be an honour.”
“I’d like to change the mindset of some farmers who look at a dairy farming couple and assume the woman is the calf rearer and ‘looks after the books’. This can be quite frustrating,” she says.
Next season, Tayla will move to a 450-cow managers position which will become a contract milking role the following season, if all goes to plan.
Tayla says she has always been a goal setter and sets small goals for herself constantly, knowing that this will help her achieve bigger goals. “Every time I achieve a goal it gets me closer to where I want to be. That’s what drives me every day.”
Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee competition was Tata Jed Te Aho, who is 2IC on Wairarapa Moana Incorporation’s 355ha, 1050-cow farm in Mangakino. He won $1,900 in prizes and two merit awards.
Tata grew up in a small rural community surrounded by sheep and beef farms. “When I was introduced to the dairy industry, I was immediately excited by the amount of opportunities that were available.”
The first-time entrant entered the Awards to become more involved in the dairy industry and meet like-minded people. “I’m quite shy and didn’t have a lot of confidence but through the Awards process I’m starting to believe in myself.”
Tata enjoys taking pride in the farm and ensuring the cows are happy. “My drive during harder times is a motto I’ve lived by most of my adult life – ‘nothing can break me because it didn’t make me’ – I keep pushing through knowing that things will get better.”
“I’d like to see the dairy industry involve Maori culture and the people of the area create awareness in topics of significance to their iwi,” says Tata.
“I’d also like to see a better awareness about the dairy industry in people who are uneducated in farming. It’s exciting to see the new techniques and ways the industry can better itself.”
Future farming goals include managing a farm and eventually farm ownership. “I’d like to give back to my people in the community I grew up in and give them job opportunities in the industry.”
Third place in the Dairy Trainee category went to 25-year-old Herd Manager Shivpreet Arora who won $1,250 in prizes and one merit award. He works for Wairarapa Moana Incorporation on the 296ha, 1080-cow farm in Mangakino and was third placegetter in the same category in 2020.
Through his Awards journey Shivpreet interacted with many farmers, received a pay rise and job offers.
“The biggest challenge for me was the language barrier,” Shivpreet explains. “I began interacting with more people and took up reading as a hobby.”
Shivpreet enjoys working outdoors and the sense of freedom farming gives him. “I like the sustainable nature of the dairy industry. Every day is a new beginning.”
The Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on Wednesday 21 April 2021 at 4054 State Highway 5, Reporoa S/N Miraka 509 where Share Farmers of the Year, Andrea and Blair Muggeridge are in equity partnership. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Mark Rivers and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Tayla Flight. 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 – Andrea and Blair Muggeridge
· Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Andrea and Blair Muggeridge
· Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Aaron and Kathryn Ryan
· Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – Andrea and Blair Muggeridge
· LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Andrea and Blair Muggeridge
· Meridian Farm Environment Award – Maurice Bryant
· Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Andrea and Blair Muggeridge
· Westpac Business Performance Award – Kevin and Monica Campbell
Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
· BlackmanSpargo Rural Law Ltd Most Promising Entrant – Melissa Russell
· Vetora BOP Employee Engagement Award – Mark Rivers
· Perrin Ag Consultants Ltd Leadership Award – Ben Purua
· I.S Dam Lining Ltd Feed Management Award – Mark Rivers
· DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Harpreet Shahi Singh
· Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Jaspreet Singh Dhanoa
· NZDIA Power Play Award – Ben Purua
· Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award – Ben Purua
Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
· Piako Tractors Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Tata Jed Te Aho
· T H Enterprises LTD Farming Knowledge Award – Shivpreet Arora
· Rotorua Lakes Council Community & Industry Involvement Awards – Tata Jed Te Aho
· Stretton & Co Ltd Communication and Engagement Award – Du Jean Williams
· DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Tayla Flight