Mid Canterbury farmers Will Green and Peter O’Connor have taken out top honours in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, giving Canterbury/Otago a clean sweep of all major categories.
Will won New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year, and Peter, the New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year.
Other winners were Jaspal Singh, of Waimate, won the New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year, and Craigmore Farming Services won the Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award.
It was the first time in the awards 33 year history that Canterbury/Otago had taken such accolades.
Judges for the awards, announced at a gala diner at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre last Saturday, described Will as driven, inspirational and a great example of a farmer who is taking every opportunity the New Zealand dairy industry offers.
He had tasted success in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards as the 2018 Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Manager of the Year and was also awarded that year’s National Runner-Up title.
Share Farmer head judge Guy Michaels, from DairyNZ, said Will impressed the judges with his contagious energy, accuracy and his constant business reviewing looking for opportunities to learn.
“He’s a great example of somebody who has come to New Zealand and recognises the opportunities the New Zealand dairy industry offers and has embraced the system, which is completely opposite to what he was used to back home.”
Originally from the UK, the 34-year-old holds a Degree in Agriculture from Harper Adams University and enjoyed farming which gave him the opportunity to work outdoors and with livestock.
Will is a 34% share milker on the 270ha Dairy Holdings Ltd Hinds property milking 1060 cows.
The judges were also impressed with his on-farm presentation, which involved his whole team, including his partner Sally Eames.
“Will has fostered a strong team culture to the extent that they have a farm footy team, with their own personalised kit. The authenticity of his team’s engagement was very evident.”
The judges noted Will constantly benchmarks himself against the best, using various DairyBase tools and those available to him through Dairy Holdings Ltd.
Farmer judge Robin Barkla, of Whakatane, said he’s involved with different groups where he benchmarks his results and sets targets, which he achieves and then benchmarks those results against.
Will identifies benefits of the awards programme including the networking opportunities and meeting and making new like-minded friends.
“The programme made me focus on goals and the direction I wanted to be heading as well as creating speaking opportunities with My Connect, Understand Your Co-op and the Pasture Summit.”
The judges said Will possessed a good knowledge of the challenges facing the industry and was able to describe the different options available to farmers that would help reduce emissions on-farm.
Judge Michele Cranefield, senior manager ANZ, said Will had an excellent knowledge of the financial drivers in his business and things that have a direct impact on his financial performance.
“Will was able to demonstrate very well where he’s been and where he wants to go and used a timeline, milk price and other influencing factors to show us his journey. He’s living those numbers and totally understands them.”
The judges noted Will was very well-rounded from finance through to people and developing his team.
“Will’s brain is working 24/7, he reaches far and wide for learning and advice and he’s very strategic,” the judges said.
“He knows where he’s going and he’s determined to get there.”
To win the national title and $50,000 in prizes, Will demonstrated strengths in human resources, finance, pasture, health, safety and biosecurity. He also won three merit awards: the Honda Farm Safety, Health & Biosecurity Award, the Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award and NZDIA Business Performance Award.
The judges also noted across the board all national share farmer finalists understood and appreciated the challenges facing the industry and are looking to the future with confidence.
“It’s bee incredibly uplifting to see such a great cross-section of our dairy industry.
“It’s definitely not all doom and gloom, they can see a big future.”
The runners-up in the Share Farmer of the Year competition were Central Plateau farmers Todd and Renee Halliday, and third was Taranaki couple Murray and Rachel Perks.
Dairy Trainee of the Year
Judges described Dairy Trainee of the Year, Peter O’Connor, as a mature, capable person with extremely strong practical skills.
They said the first-time entrant was strong across all fields and did the basics very well.
Dairy Trainee head judge Nicky Allomes said Peter is an intelligent, generational-farmer who is perceptive and articulate
The 23-year-old grew up on a dairy farm near Westport and was actively involved in the family farm and its development.
He earned a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (First Class Honours) from Lincoln University and worked a variety of jobs during holidays.
Te Kauwhata farmer judge James Courtman said Peter had an excellent understanding of the co-operative model and the importance of it to the industry.
“He also understood that the model doesn’t just happen by itself get involved if you want to make it happen.”
He is currently 2IC on Leighton and Michelle Pye’s 242ha, 900-cow Mayfield property and will progress to a new role managing a 400-cow farm near Lauriston next season.
Judge Mark Laurence, of DairyNZ, said Peter was up-to-date with major factors influencing the industry, including the labour shortage.
“He has a good broad general knowledge of the industry and how those topics then flow back to on-farm.”
The Dairy Trainee runner-up was Thomas Lundman from Bay of Plenty and third was Zoe Bryson, from Central Plateau.