A Northland man who helped run one of Australia's top-producing dairy farms has his sights set on a new challenge.
Brant Julian, 24, has qualified for the Northern Regional Final of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest to take place at Warkworth on March 16 next year.
He's one of four young men to qualify for the high-profile regional final after the Upper North district contest at Ruakaka on Saturday.
Brant is a member of Northern Wairoa Young Farmers and the other three — Daniel Richards, Jack Bellamy and Brody Goodmon — are all Kaipara Young Farmers.
"I wasn't expecting to win. This will be my second regional final. I wasn't sure what to expect the first time, but I have a lot more confidence now."
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Four more contestants for the Northern Regional Final will be selected at the Lower North district contest at Clevedon on November 17. The regional final winner will represent the northern region against six contestants from other regions around New Zealand in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final at Napier on July 4-6 next year.
Brant, who is second-in-charge on a 500-cow dairy farm at Te Kopuru, was "stoked" he had made the grade at Ruakaka, where competitors spent the day testing their practical and theoretical skills.
"We had to dig a trench with a digger, weld and complete a Ravensdown farm development module," he said.
From 2012-15 he had worked on two dairy farms at Finley in New South Wales.
"One was a low input 1300-cow farm, the other was Invergelly Jerseys which is one of the top milk producing Jersey farms in Australia," Brant said.
"It had 600 cows calving year-round that were fed a total mixed ration. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much over those three years."
Daniel Richards, 21, who manages his parents' 300-cow dairy farm east of Wellsford, took out first place in the district contest.
"I wasn't expecting to win," he said.
"This will be my second regional final. I wasn't sure what to expect the first time, but I have a lot more confidence now."
Jack Bellamy, 18, of Waipu, was "excited" to have qualified for the Northern Regional Final along with Brody Goodmon, 20, of Wellsford. The pair won the NZ Young Farmers Northern Region Fencing Competition last month, securing them a spot in the Young Farmers national fencing competition final at Christchurch in February.
Jack works on his parents' dairy farm which has 200 cows with calving organised four times a year for continual milk supply to Fresha Valley. Brody raises calves on his parents' land, and also works as a stock truck driver and fencer.
Meanwhile, entries have opened for the AgriKidsNZ contest and the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition — which replaces the TeenAg contest — to be held around New Zealand coinciding with Young Farmer of the Year regional finals.
Forty-eight AgriKidsNZ and FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year teams will compete in seven regional finals across New Zealand for each competition next year.
The top three teams in each regional final will go through to the grand final at Napier in July for each competition.