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Award winners swapped office jobs for dairy farming

The Northland Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners Dan and Gina Duncan are flanked by Dairy Trainee of the Year, Eden Ritchie and Dairy Manager of the Year, Sam Moscrip.

The Northland Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners swapped office jobs for dairy farming six years ago and now appreciate the opportunities to grow and be self-employed.

Dan and Gina Duncan were rural valuers and knew the rural lifestyle was one they wanted for their family. “I grew up on a dairy farm, and the importance of common sense and consequences are still able to be learnt by children from a young age,” says Dan. “The freedom for children has changed though with a definite focus on health and safety.”

The won $7000 in prizes. The other major winners were the Dairy Manager of the Year, Sam Moscrip, and the Dairy Trainee of the Year, Eden Ritchie.

The Duncans have entered the awards twice previously, with Dan competing in the Waikato Dairy Trainee category in 2013 to gauge how much he had learnt in his first season full-time farming and the couple entering the same region’s Farm Manager competition in 2015.

“We entered to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our business as we wanted to make sure we fully knew what we had before making a decision to move on,” say the couple. “The competition highlighted the balance we were lacking between our financial and personal goals.”

The Duncans believe their strengths lie in a low-input system with all young stock reared on an adjourning run-off. “This allows us to keep more control of our costs,” explains Gina. “We can monitor the progress of our young stock and it also provides options such as AB for our young yearlings.”

“Another strength is our scale and room for growth in numbers, allowing us to grow our equity,” says Dan. “With scale we get the ability to focus more time on management instead of day-to-day jobs, and it also helps when it comes to buying and services.”

The Duncans are 50:50 sharemilkers for the Pouto Topu A Trust milking 1020 cows on the 460ha Pouto property. Both Dan and Gina, both 32, hold Bachelor of Applied Sciences majoring in rural valuation and management, with Dan holding a double major including agriculture.

The couple found working on developing farms earlier in their dairy industry career challenging but rewarding. “There was room on the farms for growth from attention to detail and hard work. A large amount of our time was focused towards a common farm goal that we set with the owners,” the Duncans say.

“We’ve achieved our goal of quick progression through the industry, which we set when we changed our career. It was a big decision so we had to focus on the pathway.”

Runners-up were Peter Giesbers and Josiah Shaw, Kaikohe 50:50 sharemilkers who work on the Grazing North 130ha property, milking 390 cows.

Peter, 33m, has been in the dairy industry for 16 years, progressing through the industry to the position he and his wife Lana are in now, of equity partnership farm owner, multiple farm 50:50 sharemilker.

Josiah, 33, began as a farm assistant nine seasons ago, progressing through to where he and his wife Dawn are today, as equity partnership 50:50 sharemilking with the Giesbers.

The men say their partnership works because of good communication between all business partners, consultants and farm owners. “We are good at making decisions and are motivated to reach targets,” they say.

Third place went to Colin and Isabella Beazley who are 50:50 sharemilkers on Neil Jones and Wendy Crow-Jones 179ha Wellsford property, milking 330 cows.

Dairy Manager of the Year, 21-year-old Sam Moscrip, entered the awards to challenge himself and to become more aware of how management decisions on-farm directly affect the economic and environmental sustainability of the property. He won $6000 in prizes.

“I wanted to compare my development as a farmer against some of the top farm managers in the North,” he says. “I see the Dairy Industry Awards as a great way to not only celebrate success but showcase the primary sector to those deciding what career to follow.

Sam has been farming full-time since completing a Bachelor of Agriculture Commerce at Lincoln University. “Farming to me is more than a job, it’s my passion and one of my hobbies. I recognised that an education would further my knowledge within the farm, business and industry that supports the primary sector,” he says. “I want to continue to build my knowledge of governance and leadership and would like to become a leader within the primary sector.”

Pakiri Farm manager Fred Hohaia, placed second winning $1875 in prizes. He works on Rick Smith’s 360-cow, 150ha property.

Fred enjoys the lifestyle and challenges farming presents, meaning no season is the same. “I enjoy improving myself through challenges, as they not only help me become a better person, but a better farmer through acquiring new skills.”

Third was herd manager Clement Lafon, who works on Ian, Sarah and Ray Colebrook’s Kamo property.

Women were represented strongly in the Dairy Trainee of the Year competition, achieving a clean sweep of first, second and third places with 22-year-old Eden Ritchie named the winner.

Ritchie is a farm assistant on Jean Jeff’s 550-cow, 380ha Dargaville property and entered the awards to benchmark herself against others within the industry and to continue to progress her skills and confidence. She won $5680 in prizes.

“I have struggled a bit with confidence around planning the cows’ rotation, but I’m really proud that I can now reverse a trailer with ease.”

Runner-up was Sarah Powell and Jesse Insley was third.

A field day will be held on March 28 at 329 Opuna Rd, Pouto.


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