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Strength Lies in Team Work For 2019 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards Winners

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Strength Lies in Team Work For 2019 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards Winners

02 March 2019

The 2019 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners say the strength of their farming business lies in the teams they have created to support their goal of growing their business.

Jemima and Thomas Bebbington say that entering the dairy industry awards has given them a better understanding of their business.  “The Dairy Industry Awards gave us the opportunity to look into every nook and cranny of our farming business, and receive feedback from farming professionals,” say the couple, who have entered the Awards twice previously.

The couple were named the 2019 Manawatu Share Farmers of the Year at the region’s annual awards dinner held at the Awapuni Race Course in Palmerston North last night and won $9,560 in prizes.  The other major winners were the 2019 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year Renee Howard, and the 2019 Manawatu Dairy Trainee of the Year Nick Besinga.

The Bebbingtons work together on farm and are a cohesive unit.  “Tom and I are a strong team, encouraging each other and bringing out each other’s strengths,” says Jemima.

“We have a strong financial team also, with our bank manager and accountant working with us and creating positive conversations around growing our business together.”

When not working on the farm, the Bebbingtons are active in their local community, enjoying family time at the lake and are involved in motor cross with their three children Violet (6), Jack (4) and Charlotte (2).

Thomas (36) and Jemima (33) currently 50:50 share-milk 425 cows on a 160ha Ohakune property, owned by Andrew Wightman.  This is the couple’s sixth season share-milking.  They also won three merit awards.

“There was a lot of pressure with the low pay-outs of 2015/16,” remembers Tom. “We feel that the ability to move farms to a bigger position despite that low pay-out was because of great investments and management.  The bank saw that we were capable of servicing the debt and would make the most of the opportunity.”

The couple aim to excel in the dairy industry by being profitable and sustainable while enjoying a healthy work/life balance.  “We want to obtain farm ownership and provide a sound financial and environmental business to support the growth of our family and all others involved.”

Runners-up in the Manawatu Share Farmer of the Year competition are Raetihi contract milkers Alyssa and David Rae who won $5,700 in prizes and two merit awards.

The Raes are first-time entrants and consider themselves very passionate about the dairy industry.  “We saw the Awards as a great opportunity to see where we are currently at and what we can do to further improve and grow as dairy farmers,” they say.

“We love the lifestyle and enjoy working as a team through the challenging times and learning better ways of doing things.” Says Alyssa (28). “We love animals and find it so rewarding watching the new-born calves develop into healthy replacements then come into the herd.”

David and Alyssa currently contract milk 630 cows on a 275ha Raetihi property, owned by Ron Frew.

The Raes place huge value on their team within the business and support network who each have their own specific skills and strengths. “Each skill keeps the business growing and moving forward,” explains David (30). 

“Our business is open to change and is able to adapt to new process, procedures and regulations easily, which is important when keeping up with best practice in the dairy industry.”


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.


The 2019 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year is Renee Howard. She won $6,596 in prizes and two merit awards.

Renee has entered the Awards three times previously and was third placegetter in the 2018 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year category.  She says that there are numerous benefits to entering, including increasing her self-confidence and benchmark some KPI’s that she is able to influence on-farm.

“It has also given me a great opportunity to analyse my current position, with regards to my employment and personal goals, which has provided me with reassurance that I’m on the right path for the future,” says Renee. “I’m proud that I had multiple job offers after completing the industry awards last year.”

The 24-year-old believes one of the strengths of the farm business is the calf-rearing enterprise run in conjunction with the dairy farm, giving flexibility to put more milk into the calves and reducing the impact the dairy pay-out has on the business year-to-year.

“The topography of the farm makes it impractical to harvest supplements over the majority of the farm, however having two farms running pretty much side-by-side means it’s easy to move cows to and from the dairy farm to match the feed demand to the feed supply.”

Renee is the Farm Manager for Andy Short’s 150ha, 420 cow property in Palmerston North and holds a Bachelor of Agri-Science majoring in Agriculture from Massey University.   A work/life balance is achieved through playing sport and cake making and decorating.

“The biggest challenges I have faced is not having the confidence to put myself out there in the dairy industry and not understanding my worth.  The Awards have helped me overcome these challenges and helped me with my career progression – they have got me to where I am today.”

25-year-old Palmerston North Farm Manager Paul Mercer placed second in the Dairy Manager competition, winning $3,100 in prizes and three merit awards. Paul manages Robert Ervine’s 365-cow, 140ha property.  He values his staff and has developed a positive work environment where all staff can achieve, while building a strong, thriving team culture.

Third in the Dairy Manager Competition was 23-year-old Christian Simons, who is Farm Manager on John Hopkins 980-cow, Kiwitea property. He won $2,725 in prizes and one merit award.

A qualified personal trainer, Christian loves being outside and enjoys the variety a farming lifestyle brings.

The 2019 Manawatu Dairy Trainee of the Year is 25-year-old Nick Besinga, who is 2IC on the OB Group-owned 360ha, 1250-cow Bulls farm. He won $5,780 in prizes plus two merit awards.

Despite the challenge of being away from and missing his family in the Phillippines, Nick hopes to continue with his farming career in New Zealand and hopes to one day achieve farm ownership.

The first-time entrant says the Awards have enabled him to connect with people who are passionate about dairy farming and share views and goals.  “I faced my fear and challenged myself to speak in front of judges and received helpful feedback from the judges that I will use that to improve myself on and off the farm.”

Nick holds a Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness from Xavier University and says learning ‘Kiwi English’ has been a challenge. “I am getting better at communication and am keen to learn more about farming,” he says. “I always give my best in everything I do, and my boss now trusts me to manage the farm when he is not there.  Farming just makes me happy.”

Farm Assistant Dominic Semmens, aged 19 years, placed second in the Dairy Trainee category and won $2,625 in prizes and two merit awards. Dominic works on Bruce McKelvie’s Glen Oroua property.  He entered the Awards after being encouraged to do so by his Primary ITO Training Advisor.  “I love being outdoors and working with the animals,” says Dominic.

Chris Shailer was third in the Dairy Trainee competition. The 20-year-old is Senior Farm Assistant on Kevin Aidin’s 650-cow, 270ha Awahuri farm. Formerly an apprentice automotive technichan, Chris has fallen in love with his farming job and lifestyle. “It helps I have a really solid team that is easy to get along with and encourages and teaches me as much as possible,” he says.

“I want to try to progress quickly up the ranks within the dairy industry and have some good timelines set out for these goals.  I’m well on target to meet them so far, to help me achieve my dream.”

The Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards field day will be held on 20 March 2019 at 89B Mangawhero River Road, RD1, Ohakune, where the 2019 Manawatu Share Farmers of the Year, Thomas and Jemima Bebbington sharemilk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Renee Howard and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Nick Besinga. 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 –   Alyssa and David Rae
  • Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Lachlan and Rhianne Fee
  • Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Renae Flett
  • Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – Alyssa and David Rae
  • LIC Recording aha nd Productivity Award – Renae Flett
  • Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Jemima and Thomas Bebbington
  • Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Jemima and Thomas Bebbington
  • Westpac Business Performance Award – Jemima and Thomas Bebbington


Dairy Manager Merit Awards:

  • Naylor Lawrence and Associates Most Promising Entrant Award – Zoe Reichardt
  • Fitzherbert Rowe Employee Engagement Award – Christian Simons
  • Tailorednz Ltd Leadership Award – Paul Mercer
  • Hopkins Farming Group Feed Management Award – Paul Mercer
  • DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Renee Howard
  • Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Zoe Reichardt
  • PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Paul Mercer
  • Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award – Renee Howard


Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

  • Totally Vets Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Molly Milne
  • Levno Farming Knowledge Award – Dominic Semmen
  • School of Agriculture and Environment & the School of Veterinary Sciences Community and Industry Involvement Award – Nick Besinga
  • I.S Dam Lining Ltd Communication and Engagement Award – Dominic Semmen
  • DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Nick Besinga