2017 Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Industry Awards Winners Thrive On Challenges

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2017 Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Industry Awards Winners Thrive On Challenges

22 March 2017

A former adventure tourism guide and former secondary school teacher have been named as major winners in the 2017 Canterbury-North Otago South Dairy Industry Awards and both say they thrive on a challenge.

Christopher and Siobhan O’Malley were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year competition at the Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Industry Awards annual awards dinner held at the Airforce Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch last night. The other big winners were Kerry Higgins, who was named the 2017 Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Manager of the Year, and Ben Haley, the 2017 Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year.

The O’Malley’s, both aged 34 years, are sharemilking 515 cows on Graham Brookers 138ha farm in Ashburton. They won $12,607.86 in prizes.

They entered the Awards to give them an understanding of where they fit in the industry. “The competition process created a focus for parts of the farm and business that we may not have been as energetic towards,” say the couple.

With eight seasons experience in the dairying industry, they see their partnership as a strong foundation on which to grow their business. “We have a common drive to succeed, we’re on the same page in regards to risk and we understand when the other is under pressure, which helps to share the load,” says Christopher. “It helps to have someone to enjoy the journey with.”

“We are relentless,” says Siobhan. “We are both willing to think outside the box and achieve more desirable results.”

Prior to beginning his dairying career, Christopher worked as an adventure tourism guide in the Abel Tasman, Taupo and Ireland. He has previously sailed across the Pacific Ocean and was named the 2016 Mid-Canterbury Rugby Referee of the Year. Siobhan holds a Master of Arts in Classical Studies and a Diploma in Agribusiness Management, and was a secondary school teacher with a passion for English. The couple have three children aged five years, three and a half years and eight months .

Future farming goals include farm ownership. “Along the way to that goal, we are going to refine our systems so that our farm will be efficient and sustainable,” say the O’Malley’s. “We want to take every opportunity that comes our way.”

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors Westpac, DairyNZ, DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian Energy, New Zealand Farm Source and Ravensdown, along with industry partner Primary ITO.

Runner-up in the Canterbury-North Otago competition went to Tania Riddington, aged 34 years, who won $6,128.57 in prizes.

Tania sharemilks for Ken Riddington on his 450-cow, 130ha property in Culverden.

Tania holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) from Otago University, and worked in microbiology before entering the dairy industry.

She see her farm’s low-input system, where the focus is on profit not production, as a strength in the business.

“I hold a passion for my animals and I know every cow in my herd,” explains Tania.

Future farming goals include farm ownership by 2027, and the ability to run a sustainable farming business. “I would like to be good a role model to the industry by leading through my actions.”

Third place went to Simon Clisby and Nadia Trowland, who entered the competition to meet others in the dairy industry and learn from them. “We wanted to examine our business and receive feedback on it, as a whole,” say the couple. They won $3,628.57 in prizes.

The couple are equity partners on James and Belinda McCone and Stuart Nattrass’ 160ha farm at Culverden, where they milk 492 cows.

The couple see their attention to detail and rigorous recording and monitoring as one of their strengths. “We regularly update and reforecast budgets and targets and have the ability to change and adapt systems if necessary,” they say.

Simon (37) and Nadia (36) hope to continue to grow their equity within their current farming operation, with the ultimate long-term goal of farm ownership.

The winner of the 2017 Canterbury- North Otago Dairy Manager of the Year competition has entered three times previously and believes being able to analyse the farm business has helped him learn more about his business and the dairy industry.

Kerry Higgins won $6270.00 in prizes and is the farm manager for Leon and Bronwyn Mckavanagh on their 433ha, 1340-cow farm at Hororata.
“The Awards have pushed me outside my comfort zone and have made me take a long, hard look at the way in which I approach my business,” he says. “This has helped me build a greater understanding of my strengths and weaknesses.”

Kerry (32) grew up on a high country station in the McKenzie, and before entering the dairy industry in 2011 held a variety of roles in the Security industry, culminating as a Senior Parliamentary Security Officer. He is married to Anita and the couple have two children.

Kerry aims to continue to progress through the dairy industry, moving into a contract milking position in the 2017/18 season. “Farm ownership is the ultimate goal,” he says.

Kerry believes working on an established farm gives him the strength and financial resilience to deal with hard times, and an understanding of balancing production with profitability.

“Being self-contained, the business is not at the whim of the market for silage, young stock or wintering costs.”

Bankside farm manager Russ Young, aged 33 years, was second in the Dairy Manager competition, winning $2,500 in prizes.

Russ sees the Awards experience as a great chance to self-evaluate and the business model. “It’s a time to look at the opportunity for improvement and to celebrate what you are doing well,” he says.

Currently working for Purata on their 402ha property, milking 1222 cows, Russ believes the strong team culture is a positive aspect of the business. “People are involved and there is mentorship provided along with goal-setting.”

“The farm is quite large-scale, with two sheds we have the ability to move cows and use resources effectively,” he says.”

27-year-old Culverden farm manager Emma Gibb placed third and won $2000 in prizes. Emma works on Hilary and Emlyn Francis Kenmare Dairy 630ha farm, milking 1485 cows.

Emma graduated with a Diploma of Interior Design in 2008, however had always wanted to enter the dairy industry, and whilst looking for design work, successfully applied for a calf-rearing position.

“Thankfully, I made an impression and I’ve never looked back since. It was the best decision I have ever made,” she says.

Emma sees the focus on developing people and encouraging employees to learn and grow as a strength of the business she works for. “Whether it’s through further study, short courses, discussion groups or field days, Kenmare staff will always be there,” she explains. “I think this is great because not only are you upskilling staff and keeping them motivated, employees feel happier and more contented in their jobs, leading to a lower turnover of staff.”

The 2017 Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year, Ben Haley, thought entering the Awards would test his knowledge of dairy farming and push him in the right direction to further his career in the industry.

The 24-year-old has been in the industry for three seasons after spending 14 months as a station hand on a cattle station south of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory of Australia.

He is currently farm assistant for the New Zealand Rural Property Trust on an 1100-cow, 300ha property at Ashburton. Ben won $5,890 in prizes.

Future farming goals include a promotion to second-in-charge and securing a management position in the next five years.

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee competition was 24-year-old Ashburton second-in-charge Cheyenne Wilson, who won $1,475 in prizes. Cheyenne currently works for Craig and Grant Fleming on their 205ha, 780-cow farm.

“I enjoy challenging myself and the judge’s feedback gave me things to work on and points to consider,” says Cheyenne. “I also enjoyed the opportunity to speak with industry leaders and rural professionals that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

Cheyenne keeps busy outside of farming as co-convenor for the Dairy Women’s Network Mid-Canterbury region and is secretary of the Hinds Young Farmers club.

“My ultimate goal is to own a farm which will give me the comfort of trialling new initiatives, while opening up an avenue to teach farming practices to younger generations,” says Cheyenne. “I want to be fully involved in the dairy industry and be viewed as a Young Maori Female leader.”

Third place in the Dairy Trainee competition went to 19-year-old farm assistant Luke Roberts who won $1,250 in prizes. He works for Thomas and Paul Kerr on their 170ha, 500-cow farm in Selwyn.

The Canterbury-North Otago Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on April 6 at 1847 Thompsons Track RD 2 Ashburton where Share Farmers of the Year, Christopher and Siobhan O’Malley, sharemilk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Kerry Higgins, and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Ben Haley. 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 – James Bawden
· Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Christopher & Siobhan O'Malley
· Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Simon Clisby & Nadia Trowland
· Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – Tania Riddington
· LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Tania Riddington
· Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Kieran & Erin McCall
· Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Tania Riddington
· Westpac Business Performance Award – Christopher & Siobhan O'Malley

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
· NZ Funds Private Wealth Most Promising Entrant Award - Sheridan Beams
· ScanSouth Employee Engagement Award - Kerry Higgins
· TH Enterprises Ltd Leadership Award – Russ Young
· Fonterra Farm Source Dairy Management Award – Emma Gibb
· DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Kerry Higgins
· Primary ITO Power Play Award – Russ Young
· Fonterra Farm Source Feed Management Award – Paul Clement
· Westpac Financial Management & Planning Award – Kerry Higgins

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
· Environment Canterbury DIA Most Promising Entrant – Cam Monk
· Ngai Tahu Farming Farming Knowledge Award – Cheyenne Wilson
· Alexanders Communication & Engagement Award – Ben Haley
· FarmRight Community & Industry Involvement Award - Cheyenne Wilson
· DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Ben Hayley