Chelsea Smith entered the Waikato Dairy Industry Awards to better herself and build a professional network.
She came away with the Farm Manager of the Year title and further industry progression when she secured a contract milk job next season.
“That came about from entering the awards and being known in the industry,” she said.
Smith planned to to contract milk for at least two to three seasons before shifting to herd-owning sharemilking, she said at the Winner’s Field Day for Share Farmer of the Year winners Steve Gillies and Amy Johnson.
“Five hundred cows would be my ultimate, and I’m looking at a 10-plus year [goal] of farm ownership, but you’ve got to be flexible and the goal posts keep moving.”
Smith said she set challenging, flexible, but realistic goals.
“Don’t push yourself too hard, but don’t stop pushing yourself.”
Smith had a dairy background with her parents living and working on farms in Wairarapa and Canterbury.
“They always said, look outside the square, the dairy farm will always be here.”
She took that advice on and while she worked on the farm during the weekends, she decided to work in the wine industry when she left school, and earned a diploma in viticulture.
“It’s something similar to dairy farming, you are relying on the seasons and the weather and every year is a different year.”
The profession provided travel opportunities and Smith was able to combine wine making in Europe with travel.
In between she would return and spend time on her parent’s farm.
“It got to the point where I was just missing the cows.”
Smith spent three years second-in-charge (2IC) on the family farm, milking 900 cows. During that time she studied to be artificial insemination technician through LIC to provide extra income and found another job opportunity as 2IC at a 430 cow farm near Rangiora.
There she met partner, Waikato born Jarrod Davies, who works as a builder.
She followed Davies north to Waikato when he decided he wanted to move back home in June last year.
Smith said she had a few reservations about shifting north because of the lack of contacts in the region and got a job as farm manager at Steve and Amy van der Poel’s 1100 cow farm southwest of Te Awamutu.
“I thank Steve and Amy for giving me an opportunity to manage their farm because it was pretty risky on their part, considering I hadn’t had a Waikato [dairy] season.”
The 250 hectare farm operates a split calving system and is a reasonably intensive operation with a stocking rate of 4.4 cows per hectare and a target production of 460,000 kilograms of milk solids.
The farm was also equipped with two 500 cow capacity feed pads and a 60 bale fully automated rotary shed.
“I had never worked with that technology until this season and when you are dealing with large numbers, having that automation in the cowshed, it really helps with your day to day farming,” Smith said.
The farm’s main strength is that it is traditionally summer safe although this year was an exception with the volatile weather pattern this summer. The self-contained farm has its own drystock block and few outside livestock come onto the property, Smith said.
It also represented a big challenge as she went from employee to employer and overseeing a staff of five in the day-to-day managing of the farm. Smith runs it on a 12-2 roster and fortnightly meetings with all of the staff.
With Davies’ income as a builder and Smith out farming, their combined incomes will help make that goal achievable, she said.
“If we focus on what we are both doing at the moment, that will help us get to where we want to go.”
By: GERALD PIDDOCK