The winners of the 2021 Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year category say they love the land they live on and wish the general public had a better understanding of what farmers do and why they do it.
Scott and Ann Henderson were announced winners of the region's Share Farmer of the Year category, announced at a dinner at Bill Richardson's Transport World in Invercargill on Saturday night.
The other big winners were Gary Sunshine-Tervit who was named the 2021 Southland/Otago Dairy Manager of the Year, and Sophie White, the 2021 Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year.
The Hendersons say understanding their business is key to success and they do everything they can to look after the environment and improve it.
"Cows, people and the environment are our main focus at all times. We go the extra mile to ensure our team are well looked after and make sure they enjoy their job," they say."
"People and their safety is our number one priority and being on a large-scale farm gives us plenty of areas to train staff in. We have a young team who are super motivated."
Scott and Ann are 25% lower-order sharemilkers on the Whitestone Trust property at Milton, milking 850 cows, and also own cows in the herd. They won $ 10,250 in prizes plus five merit awards.
Ann is no stranger to the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, winning the 2017 Otago/Southland Dairy Manager category after placing second the previous year. Scott entered the dairy industry in 2014 after meeting Ann after working as a qualified carpenter since leaving school.
"There are so many opportunities within the dairy industry for everyone," says Ann. "Our long-term goal is farm ownership. We like to get involved as much as we can in the industry and community."
The Hendersons say they find motivation from their staff and animals during harder times. "Our staff are so happy and we enjoy seeing them progress. Looking after our cows to make sure they are in the best health and seeing what we can do to improve the environment and farm gets us up in the morning."
"We love the dairy industry and the opportunities it has given us and our team. Progression is huge."
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.
Runners-up in the Southland-Otago category went to Matthew and Moniek van Hout who won $6,200 in prizes and three merit awards.
The couple are contract milkers for John and Teresa van Hout on their 225ha, 630-cow property in Winton.
"We have entered the Awards three times previously and have learnt so much about our business and met so many new friends in the industry," explain the couple. "The Awards programme has made us challenge every aspect of our business and make more plans for the future."
Both Matthew and Moniek grew up on dairy farms and chose farming as their careers because of the opportunities for growth and the rewarding and challenging nature of the industry.
Matthew is a qualified cabinet maker and holds a modern apprenticeship in agriculture and rural staff management. Moniek holds a Bachelor in Business Management (1st class Hons) majoring in strategic management and management communication from University of Waikato.
The new technology within the dairy industry, such as cow collars and virtual fencing excites the couple who would love to be at the forefront of innovative farming.
"Seeing fully-fed cows achieving their full potential is incredibly rewarding," says John. "We have a genuine passion for our cows and the lifestyle we have because of them."
"We're proud of the record production on farm of 2.82MS per cow, and 403,919MS in total on farm for the 19/20 season, which was another record."
"Our industry hasn't been seen in a positive light and we would love to showcase what farming is really all about," says Moniek. "There are positive steps being taken, such as the Fonterra Open Gates initiative."
Third place went to Craig and Olivia McGregor, who won $4000 in prizes. They placed third place in the same category last year.
Craig and Olivia contract milk for Jamie McConachie, Jared Collie, Jerry Excel and Paddy Thornton's 256ha farm at Drummond, where they milk 900 cows.
Craig has been dairy farming for 14 years and grew up on dairy farms throughout Southland. Olivia is a registered nurse and was introduced to the dairy industry when she met Craig.
The couple enjoy the dairy industry's continually changing environment and the challenges it brings.
Future farming goals include working towards an equity partnership or farm ownership.
Gary Sunshine-Tervit was named the winner of the 2021 Southland/Otago Dairy Manager of the Year category.
Gary won $8,700 in prizes plus three merit awards and is the Farm Manager for Shane and Vicki Murphy on their 270ha, 750-cow Winton property.
"The benefits of entering the Dairy Manager category previously was the opportunity to breakdown farm systems and take the time to sit down and gain a thorough understanding of why things are done that way," says Gary.
"With that came reflection of how I personally would do things, whether the same or different to the way the farm is currently operating."
Gary chose dairy farming as a career because he's a practical person who enjoys being busy with their hands. "I am most certainly not somebody who could sit at a desk all day," he says. "No matter the weather I enjoy being outside, and I enjoy the rewards I get from seeing my cows and staff happy."
Gary is enthusiastic about the way technology is progressing within the dairy industry. "I don't think it will replace good animal husbandry but instead aide us in our pursuit of cow health and production."
Gary believes a strength of his business is a strong focus on good infrastructure and machinery. "It allows me to focus on the farm and production and not worry about things breaking or staff getting injured.
"Shane and Vicki are very good bosses which is another strength of the business as they allow you to do your job, but you know that they are they to provide support and guidance if needed. They have been great mentors to me."
A serious motorbike accident in 2015 resulting in a traumatic head injury has been one of the greater challenges Gary has had to work through, and continues to recover from.
"I owe my success to my family, my parents and my specialist in Dunedin. Going through that experience definitely allows me to be a better boss to my staff, as I know the importance of looking after yourself."
Gary is most proud of achieving record production in his first year managing, and is on track to achieve even better for next season. "I know this result has led to my contract milking role which I will begin in the 21/22 season."
Gary and his wife Daniella have two daughters Pippa (5) and Lucy (2) and he considers them the driving force in his life. "I want them to be proud of who I am and what I can provide for them"
"From not knowing if I was ever going to be able to work again after my head injury, to now knowing I am providing a secure future for my family in the dairy industry is bittersweet."
Lochiel Assistant Manager Ashleigh Botting was second in the Dairy Manager category, winning $4,500 in prizes and three merit awards.
Ashleigh loves the lifestyle of farming and working with the animals every day. "There is always something different happening."
"I'm excited to be part of improving the dairy industry for future generations."
Ashleigh believes a strength of the farm lies in it's geographical location. "It's in the perfect spot, well-maintained and cared for. The owners have a passion for the farm so improvements are always being made."
"Another strength is that the herd is young and has a lot of potential to hit high production. It also has good genetic gain that keeps improving each year."
Currently working on Jamie McConachie, Jarred Collie, Jerry Excel and Paddy Thornton's 256ha property milking 900 cows, Ashleigh thrives on achieving farm targets and personal goals on farm.
"My love for the cows always drives me during the harder times."
Crossans Corner 2IC Nicole Barber placed third and won $3,200 in prizes and one merit award. Nicole works on Craig Tomsett's 228ha farm, milking 640 cows.
Nicole entered the Awards last year in the Dairy Trainee category and is proud of the Most Promising Entrant merit award she received.
"I met so many like-minded people and learnt about testing my knowledge."
Prior to coming to New Zealand in 2017, Nicole grew up on an organic dairy farm in the UK, with 60 cows.
"I enjoy seeing the similarities and differences between New Zealand and European farming and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to have worked in both."
"You're always learning new things in the dairy industry, even farmers who have been farming for 30 years are still learning how to become more environmentally friendly and how to reduce their carbon footprint."
The 2021 Southland-Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year is Sophie White who entered the Awards to make valuable connections, learn new information and to help with her progression in the industry.
Sophie is in her first season in the dairy industry and chose dairy farming as she loves the variation between each day and the on-going learning in the dairy industry.
She is Farm Assistant for Bathan and Jane Muir on their 552ha Edendale property, milking 1600 cows. She won $6,200 in prizes.
Sophie has completed the Milk Harvesting Level 3 PrimaryITO course and is currently completing the husbandry paper.
Outside of farming Sophie enjoys spending time with her pets, partner and family. "I'm so proud of where I am in all aspects. I started farming without knowing a cow's teat from her ear and now I feel I have such a broad range of knowledge can care for cows throughout each part of the season."
Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee category was Assistant Manager Cameron Smith who won $2,200 in prizes and two merit awards. Cameron works on Lance and Sally Hammond's 300ha, 720-cow farm at Dacre.
The first-time entrant entered the Awards as he had nothing to lose and lots to gain. "I entered to test myself against others and to see where I had to improve and learn."
Cameron enjoys all aspects of farming, especially the day-to-day challenges as things are always changing and moving.
"I absolutely love it," he says. "Working outside, with animals, being flexible, the opportunities for equity creation and growth in the sector and also the appeal of raising a family on farm – eventually."
"I'm excited to progress through the industry to eventual farm ownership, and to continue to supply the most efficient and sustainable produced milk in the world."
If he could change anything in the dairy industry it would be to close the divide between rural and urban. "I think this is important as if feels that urban dwellers have lost touch with the rural sector and in many cases, don't support the dairy industry at all."
Third place in the Dairy Trainee category went to Farm Assistant Samuel Spencer who won $1,500 in prizes. Samuel works for Colin Lawry on his 230ha, 600-cow farm in Otautau.
Samuel chose farming as he loves being outdoors and future farming goals include farm ownership.
"I'd like to change the negative stereotype about farmers not caring for the environment and animals. To do this, I'd like to become more involved in the community and share the correct information to educate people."
Share Farmer Merit Awards:
•DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Scott & Ann Henderson
•Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Matthew and Moniek van Hout
•Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Matthew and Moniek van Hout
•Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – Scott & Ann Henderson
•LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Matthew and Moniek van Hout
•Meridian Farm Environment Award – Scott & Ann Henderson
•Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Scott & Ann Henderson
•Westpac Business Performance Award – Scott & Ann Henderson
Dairy Manager Merit Awards:
•Landpro Most Promising Entrant – Shaun Palmer
•Shand Thomson Encouragement Award – Shaun Palmer
•McIntyre Dick and Partners Employee Engagement Award – Ashleigh Botting
•Regional Ford Leadership Award – Nicole Barber
•Vetsouth Feed Management Award – Gary Sunshine-Tervit
•DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Ashleigh Botting
•Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Ashleigh Botting
•NZDIA Power Play Award – Gary Sunshine-Tervit
•Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award – Gary Sunshine-Tervit
Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
•MilkMap Farming Knowledge Award – Cameron Smith
•Agricentre South Community and Industry Involvement Award – Kelly Anne Hopper
•FMG Communication and Engagement Award – Kelly Anne Hopper
•DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Cameron Smith