The prestigious New Zealand Dairy Awards finals were held in Auckland recently. Cherie Taylor interviews one of the winning sharemilkers who changed direction a few years ago from sheep farming to dairy
Swapping sheep for cows has been a winning combination for one of the country's most eligible rural bachelors.
Years ago, 25-year-old Mamaku farmer John Butterworth swore he'd never pick up milking cups as he was being touted as a potential lead shepherd on a Landcorp farm near Taupo.
That is all in the past, though, as Butterworth walked away from the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards as national runner-up sharemilker recently.
Three years ago, he gave up dreams of being a lead shepherd and began 50/50 sharemilking for his parents, Shelley and Jack Butterworth, taking over control of their 181ha property at Mamaku, milking 550 cows with dreams of farm ownership on the horizon.
"Who would have thought," he says.
Butterworth was the only single man in the contest and was representing the Central Plateau.
He entered the prestigious rural competition to pit his skills against the best in the industry and to ensure he was on target for farm ownership by 2019.
"I wanted to put myself up against the industry's best and to know I'm on track to reach my goals," he says. "I got a lot of feedback from all of the judges, which I have been able to build on. It's been really helpful."
Though he admits he enjoyed sheep farming, Butterworth says there was no future for him in the sheep industry.
Dairy farming is the way to go for young people, he believes.
"I do prefer dairy now just because I want to reach my dreams. It's a clearly driven path where, with sheep, it isn't so clear. In dairy you can start at the bottom and work your way up to management, lower order sharemilker, sharemilker and eventual farm ownership. It's so achievable in the dairy industry."
He encourages other farmers to give the next competition a go, explaining it will help them to set specific goals and know their business thoroughly from the inside out.
"It's so worthwhile. Before going into the process I had a rough idea where I was heading but the competition made me sit down and write a clear direction and plan. I know where I'm going now and I know my business inside out. It's just a matter of sticking to my plans," he says.
Butterworth also won the Honda Farm Safety and Health Award, taking away a total prize package valued at $22,000.
Judges told the 680 people at the awards' dinner at SkyCity in Auckland that the farm was one of 22 in the Rotorua's Lakes' catchment and that John Butterworth was "extremely environmentally aware".