21 March 2018
The winners of the 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year competition believe strong relationships with all the people they deal with are the key to their successful business.
Simon and Hilary Vallely were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year competition at the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards annual dinner held at the Bill Richardson Transport World in Invercargill last night. The other big winners were Jaime McCrostie who was named the 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Manager of the Year, and Simone Smail the 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year.
The Vallely’s, both aged 31 years, are 50:50 sharemilking 475 cows on David and Valerie Stafford’s 160ha farm in Gore. They won $20,010 in prizes.
They believe the different strengths and interests each other brings to their working relationship makes their business stronger. “We also have an excellent relationship with our farm owners, and we really value the relationship,” say the couple.
“Trust is the key when making on-farm decisions as the owners live at the other end of the country,” says Simon. “We are passionate about what we do. We care for our staff, environment, cows and our farm owner’s asset.”
Simon and Hilary both hold a Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) from Lincoln University and have entered the Awards twice previously. “One of the benefits of entering is that we have been able to cross-examine our business and learn about ourselves,” explains Hilary.
Simon and Hilary both grew up on farms and wanted to continue in a rural career. “We’re passionate about dairy farming and could see a pathway to grow while being self-employed relatively young,” they say.
“We’re proud of the record production results we’ve achieved and we love seeing our animals looking great and being well-fed and happy,” the Vallelys say. “We’re also proud of purchasing a 72ha property which we farm in conjunction with sharemilking, and of surviving a low payout which was a challenging time with minimal bank security.”
“We love the outdoors and the challenge each farming season brings, from weather to payout as well as the really good times such as phenomenal grass growth and excitement during calving.”
Future farming goals for the couple include consolidating debt, owning a 500-cow farm by 2020 and improving per cow production to 100% body weight.
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 Southland-Otago competition went to Steven and Hayley Clarke, aged 34 and 33 years respectively, who won $9,350 in prizes.
The first-time entrants are 50% equity partners with Julie Clarke and manage their 475-cow 151.4ha farm at Gore.
“I was encouraged to enter the Awards by my farm consultant, Ecolab rep and LIC rep, and it is something I have personally strived towards,” says Steven. “I enjoy a challenge and this competition certainly provides one.”
The Clarkes are proud of the work they have done to develop their farm to where it is today. “The farm started as an eye-sore, but we are slowly turning it into an icon,” they say. “We have made many improvements and our next project is some riparian planting and native bush in a wetland area on the farm.”
“We are proud to show people what we have done to get to this point and where we have come from,” says Hayley.
The couple believe the strengths of their business lies in their fertile soil on their farm, and their herd. “The cows we have produce a lot milk for the amount of grass they eat. They are very fertile and get in-calf early. We are very proud of the herd we have.”
Prior to entering the dairy industry in 2009, Steven flew helicopters in Canada and New Zealand while Hayley taught PE, Health and Science at Gore High School for 10 years.
Future farming goals include paying off as much debt as possible whilst keeping the farm to a high standard and building a new family home.
Third place went to Jason Checketts, who spent seven years managing sheep and beef properties before entering the dairy industry and has always wanted to enter the Awards. “I was talked into it this year!” He won $4,250 in prizes.
Jason is a Lower Order Share-milker on John Douglas’ 398ha farm at Lumsden, where he milks 960 cows.
Jason (31) says having a progressive attitude and always being open to new ideas and opportunities has stood him in good stead. “I’m fully involved in every aspect of the business from putting cups on cows to doing the payroll and all the financial side,” he says.
“I’m proud of setting a record production at my last two share-milking positions, and am on track to the same in my current one.”
Future farming goals include gaining a 50:50 share-milking position then moving into farm ownership. “I enjoy being outdoors, working with animals and machinery. Every day is different.”
Women were represented strongly in the 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Manager of the Year competition, achieving both first and second places, with 32-year-old Jaime McCrostie named the winner.
Jaime won $9,200 in prizes and is the Farm Manager for her employer Steve Smith and farm owners AB Lime on the 370ha, 930-cow farm at Winton.
“I love cows and I love being outside working with stock. I love the multi-disciplinary challenges on-farm and that there is always something new to be learning,” says Jaime.
Jaime believes one of the benefits of entering the Awards is that the process highlights areas for improvement. “It also forces you to consolidate all your farm data and help benchmark, reflect and justify decisions.”
Jaime (32) holds a Degree in Physical Education and a Diploma in Agribusiness Management and was previously a Programme Coordinator for Project K with the Foundation for Youth Development. She still gives of her time to the Family Works Big Buddy programme.
She aims to move into an overseer role to make the most of her organisational skills, her developing management skills and her expanding knowledge around human resources and health and safety.
Invercargill Farm Manager Chloe Mackle, aged 25 years, was second in the Dairy Manager competition, winning $5,000 in prizes.
Chloe sees the Awards experience as a great chance to network and gain confidence. “The judge’s feedback is a very valuable tool, and it’s an opportunity to benchmark yourself against other industry leaders,” she says.
Currently working for Albert Buchanan on his 115ha property, milking 350 cows, Chloe believes one of the strengths of the business lies in the excellent team of people she works with. “My boss and I make a great team. We make timely and accurate decisions and we are proactive rather than reactive.”
“The cows are another strength, they pay the wages at the end of the day. These cows have adapted, stayed healthy and pumped milk out for us all season long,” says Chloe.
24-year-old Gore Farm Manager James Matheson placed third and won $2,250 in prizes. James works on Chris Lawlor’s 280ha farm, milking 650 cows.
James entered the dairy industry upon leaving high school, as he saw many career opportunities. “I love the challenges and diversity within the dairy industry,” he says.
“Dealing with two low pay-out years was challenging however I’m proud I’ve purchased my first block of land which I will take over in June this year.”
The 2018 Southland-Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year, Simone Smail, entered the awards to meet like-minded people who are passionate and want to progress in the industry. “I wanted to challenge myself,” she says. “You never lose, you either win or learn.”
This is the 24-year-old’s third full season dairy farming, and she is currently herd Manager on a Invercargill City Council farm, working for Steve and Tracy Henderson on the 780-cow, 310ha property at Invercargill. Simone won $6,380 in prizes.
It was while she was studying for her Certificate in Veterinary Nursing that she discovered her passion for working with cows. “I have always loved being outdoors and love being able to be hands-on and working with cows,” she says. “I hope to continue to increase my knowledge and keep progressing through the industry.”
Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee competition was 24-year-old Heriot Farm Assistant Shannon Bunn who won $2,000 in prizes. Shannon works on Austin Garden’s 270ha, 720-cow farm.
Shannon holds a Diploma in Sports Coaching and Personal Training and is in his second season in the dairy industry. “As a young kid I had a run-in with a bull, so I was quietly nervous about handling bulls in the herds during mating,” he says. “I’ve overcome this fear and am looking forward to beginning a 2IC position next season.”
Third place in the Dairy Trainee competition went to 24-year-old Shed Manager Caycee Cormack who won $1,250 in prizes. Caycee works for John-Mark Lietze on their 300ha, 600-cow farm in Heriot.
The Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on April 11 at 86 Charlton Siding Road RD 2 Gore where Share Farmers of the Year, Simon and Hilary Vallely sharemilk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, Jaime McCrostie, and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Simone Smail. 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 – Jason Checketts
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Matthew Van Hout & Moniek Langeveld
• Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Ben & Jean Bonner
• Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – Simon & Hilary Vallely
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Simon & Hilary Vallely
• Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Steven & Hayley Clarke
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Matthew Van Hout & Moniek Langeveld
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Simon & Hilary Vallely
Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
• Claude Wuest Memorial Trophy Encouragement Award - Bridget Bell
• McIntyre Dick & Partners Employee Engagement Award - Jaime McCrostie
• Rural Livestock Ltd Feed Management Award - Chloe Mackle
• Shand Thomson Leadership Award – Jaime McCrostie
• Fonterra Farm Source Dairy Management Award – Jaime McCrostie
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Jaime McCrostie
• Primary ITO Power Play Award – James Matheson
• Westpac Financial Management & Planning Award – James Matheson
Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
• Vetsouth Most Promising Entrant Award – Rebecca Harvey
• FarmRight Farming Knowledge Award – Simone Smail
• FMG Communication & Engagement Award – Simone Smail
• Malloch McClean Community & Industry Involvement Award - Simone Smail
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Simone Smail