Three Taupō women are proving their doubters wrong as they prepare for their first season as managers of dairy farms.
The trio will each manage Pāmu Farms dairy farms located just out of Taupō.
When they started out, two had never set foot on a dairy farm and one grew up on a sheep and beef farm. One had family members who doubted she would cope with the mud, the stink, and hours outside in the cold.
Resolution Dairy Unit manager Mona Cable, Quarry Dairy Unit manager Liza Arnold and Burgess Dairy Unit manager Carol Cuttance have worked their way up from the bottom, spent time "riding the train" while their children were young, taken up study opportunities to learn about milking and effluent management systems, and all three say they still experience moments of self-doubt.
Altogether Pāmu Farms has 19 dairy units in Taupō.
"There is great mentoring support available from my business manager. If I have a question I get on the phone and ask for advice," Mona says.
Liza took over the 400 cows at Quarry in November. She walked straight into the second calving of the season, got a whole new herd of cows in February and they started calving on March 15. This will be the first season Quarry Dairy Unit has supplied Taupō milk processing plant Miraka.
Originally from Auckland, in 2014 Liza started working part-time on a dairy farm in Greymouth for her brother-in-law. It was the perfect occupation for her while her children were young.
She's held many positions, from calf rearing to dairy assistant and then third in charge, and in August last year took up the position on Quarry as second in charge, and by November was running the show.
Her two daughters are also in the industry, one is rearing calves and the other is in the process of buying her own dairy farm.
"If you want to grow yourself, you want to do it anyway, but the Pāmu Farms managers I had along the way always accommodated my studies."
At peak, Resolution Dairy Unit has 1087 cows and spring calving begins on July 20. Next season, new manager Mona Cable is aiming to hit all her targets and so far this season Resolution has been grade free, meaning there have been no errors relating to milk quality.
Prior to 2010, Mona was a fulltime mum, doing a computer course at Taupō Polytechnic. She had never set foot on a farm, and family members were working on a Taupō dairy unit owned by Pāmu Farms, Achilles Dairy Unit.
"I had a little go and that was me. My family never thought I would last. Back then I had long nails and a skincare regime going on. I still do [skincare], but not as vigorous as before," Mona says.
Her progression was gradual, and along the way, her managers encouraged her to study.
"Some managers, when they see the potential, they encourage you to upskill."
Resolution product goes to Synlait Milk where it is turned into milk powder, infant formula, and sports drinks.
In October, Burgess Dairy Unit will be fully organic, and new manager Carol Cuttance has been there for the three-year journey, starting as the shed manager in 2017. She grew up on a sheep and beef farm, has a diploma in farming, and has been farming her whole life.
Next season Burgess will peak at 590 cows and Carol is looking forward to being at the helm of a challenging farming system where no antibiotics are allowed for animal health, all feed has to be grown on-farm, and where a dry stock unit is part of the Burgess farming mix.
"We have a lot of vet support. We can always do a little bit better each season," Carol says.
Pāmu Farms has four organic dairy units in Taupō, all at varying stages of production with Burgess supplying Fonterra, which sends products to Europe, Korea and Canada.
A pink helmeted daughter rides past on a two-wheeler motorbike, as the women say dairy farming has been a great employer for their children as well.
All three have all-male staff, and joke they would love to have an all-female staff. They say if anyone, male or female, wants to have a go working on a dairy farm, they should get in touch and come in as a calf rearer or casual worker.