At a glittering ceremony in the Copthorne Hotel in Masterton Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj from Eketāhuna were named the 2021 Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa Share Farmers of the Year at the region's annual awards the previous Thursday night.
To make it even more significant for Tararua, Leon McDonald of Woodville had just been named the 2021 Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Manager of the Year and Dairy Trainee Kevin Liengme of Dannevirke had earned third place behind Tony Craig of Carterton, the 2021 Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Trainee of the Year.
The 2021 Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners believe a good team with a can-do attitude is vital to the success of their business.
Just 10 years ago they arrived from India with two suitcases and since then they have learned their craft seeking lots of assistance as 50/50 sharemilkers on Andrew and Monika Arbuthnott, Geoff Arends and Ester Romp's 285ha, 460-cow Eketāhuna property and the local Eketāhuna dairy industry.
Both Manoj and Sumit have entered the awards previously, with Sumit placing third in the 2018 Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Manager category.
They say entering the awards programme has created an excellent network within the industry and valuable feedback from judges. "We overcame the lack of a network by engaging more and more in dairy industry events."
"The New Zealand dairy farming system is totally different from back home in India and it really appeals to us," they say. "It's very rewarding as we can see the improvements we make on-farm and there is a culture unlike any other industry."
Manoj holds a bachelor in agriculture, while Sumit has a diploma in business management and level 4 in agriculture.
Future farming goals for Manoj and Sumit include continuing to grow their business and farm ownership in the next three years.
"Our good team is our strength as they create new ideas, improve efficiency and require less managerial interference," they say. They won $7882 in prizes and four merit awards.
An open day at Eketāhuna is set for April 14.
In the same category Zoe Haylock and Adam Hands of Norsewood also did amazingly well winning the other four merit awards and must have come pretty close to winning. They farm 330 cows on 100ha at Tara Grove Farm.
The 2021 Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Manager of the Year, Leon McDonald, won $6032 in prizes plus two merit awards.
Leon has entered the awards twice previously, was runner-up in 2020 Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Manager category and says the process gave him the chance to meet people in the industry outside of his usual circle.
"The most important benefit I have received is the boost to my confidence in not just my farming knowledge but also my ability to speak publicly."
Leon is assistant manager/2IC on Barry and Carol McNeil's 150ha, 450-cow Papatawa property.
"I love what I do. I love the animals, getting out on the farm and being surrounded by nature."
"You can't beat getting the cows in on a morning where the sun is rising behind the hill and the light is reflecting off the grass covered in dew."
Leon wishes he could change public perception of the New Zealand dairy industry. "I feel dairy farmers and the industry in general has a negative reputation, often because of mainstream media reporting."
"I would love for the general New Zealand public to see the good we do for the country, how we treat our animals and the positive steps we are taking to positively impact our environment."
Leon sets high targets for himself to ensure he is always growing and developing into the best farmer he can be. "During times where I'm out for long hours, there are days that I don't see my children," he says. "However, being able to give them the amazing opportunity to grow up on a farm and witness their love for it keeps me going. I'm lucky to have an amazing wife who runs a tight ship. My plan for the future is to ensure that I am in a position where I am happy and challenged and my family is settled and secure."
The 2021 Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Trainee of the Year is Tony Craig who is currently assistant manager on Shaun and Kirsty Rose's 180ha, 400-cow farm at East Taratahi. He won $5312 in prizes and two merit awards.
The second-time entrant saw the awards as an opportunity to network and gain extra learning and knowledge. "This is my second full-time season in the industry," says Tony. "I love that dairy farming is a job that doesn't feel like work. It's a career that feels like a lifestyle."
Carterton herd manager Jacob Stolte was second in the Dairy Trainee category, winning $1607 in prizes. He works for Willem and Roelie Stolte and Clarence and Elise Stolte on their 190ha, 520-cow property.
2IC Kevin Liengme was third. He works for Stuart and Sandra Cordell on their 165ha, 500-cow Dannevirke property.
Kevin began work in the dairy industry after completing his chemical and process engineering degree at university in the middle of the pandemic. "I see myself potentially using my engineering degree within the dairy industry on the production side by decarbonising how we process milk."
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.
Share Farmer Merit Awards:
■ DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj
■ Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj
■ Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Adam Hands and Zoe Haylock
■ Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj
■ LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Adam Hands and Zoe Haylock
■ Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – Adam Hands and Zoe Haylock
■ Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Adam Hands and Zoe Haylock
■ Westpac Business Performance Award – Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj
Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
■ Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa DIA Most Promising Entrant Award – Claire Douglas
■ AMR Group Ltd Employee Engagement Award – Leon McDonald
■ ADM.NZ Leadership Award – Damon Ashworth
■ Vet Services Feed Management Award – Claire Douglas
■ DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Claire Douglas
■ Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Leon McDonald
■ NZDIA Power Play Award – Rene ten Bolscher
■ Westpac Financial Management & Planning Award – Rene ten Bolscher
Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
■ Hawke's Bay/Wairarapa DIA Most Promising Entrant- Aliyah Wong
■ TFM Tractors Farming Knowledge Award – Tony Craig
■ T.H. Enterprises Ltd Community & Industry Involvement Award – Kiki Ritmeester
■ Irrigation Services Communication and Engagement Award – Kevin Liengme
■ DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Tony Craig