When Hamish Day was growing up as a city boy in urban Wellington, dairy farming was never mentioned as a potential career choice.
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Emma and Hamish Day have won the Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year title. PHOTO: NEW ZEALAND DAIRY INDUSTRY AWARDS

Instead, he was offered information about trades and became a qualified builder, continuing to work in the city.

But in 2011, he and his wife Emma left the rat-race of the city behind and pursued a drastic change of career, moving to the dairy industry.

Recently, Mr and Mrs Day, both 36, were named the winners of the 2022 Southland/Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year at a function in Invercargill.

The couple progressed through the industry and were now contract milking 700 cows for Peter and Maria Clinton on a 220ha property at Mabel Bush, near Invercargill. They won $13,176 in prizes plus four merit awards.

Mrs Day, who grew up on a Taranaki dairy farm, said it was nice acknowledgement of “all the hard work” paying off.

She met her future husband in Wellington and he got a taste of the dairy industry through her family; she came from a large family and all her siblings dabbled in the industry. He became intrigued by it, she recalled, and wanted to “give it a go”.

Mrs Day studied design, majoring in photography, and she always thought she would do something different to dairy farming. She later worked for AMP Financial Services.

But when her husband suggested giving dairy a go, she was “definitely keen for it”.

At that stage, they had discussions about getting married and having children and she knew it was a great lifestyle for children to grow up with.

She suggested trying it for two years, knowing they could always fall back on careers in the city — but they both “loved it”.

Getting up early was something they were both accustomed to, having to beat the rush-hour traffic in Wellington. Regularly up between 4.30-5am, leaving behind that time spent in traffic was another reason for them to change careers.

They headed to Taranaki first, where Mr Day began as a farm assistant and Mrs Day raised calves and relief milked.

After two years, and knowing they wanted to continue to move up the ladder, they shifted to Southland to pursue more opportunities.

They moved to their current property in June last year. Both shared the same principle of doing something properly, or to the best of their ability.

They tried to reach big targets with milk production and on the farm, she said.

A goal had been to run two units and that would be realised next season, bringing them up to milking about 1400 cows.

Mr Day did the day-to-day farm operations while Mrs Day looked after the bookwork, including payroll and staff rosters.

Prior to having sons Henry (3) and Frank (1), she worked full time on the farm with her husband, meaning she was able to run it if he was ever away.

Now, she reckoned she had the “best of both worlds” as she could take the children out on the farm with her and remain involved, while they enjoyed the “big outdoors”.

The couple had been asked to enter the awards a few times. Mr Day entered the Dairy Trainee category while working in Taranaki in 2012 and described it as a great experience, pushing him to see what he knew and where he could improve his career.

This year, they entered to work out why they farmed like they did, to understand and benchmark their business and identify areas for improvement.

While it was a lot of work preparing for the awards, it had “definitely” been worth it and they encouraged others to enter. They were now preparing for the national final in May.

The family enjoyed living in Southland. Current dry conditions had been “a bit stressful” and they were looking at options of what to do over the next couple of months, while hoping for rain.

They were also working through hiring staff for the second farm they were taking over for next season. That was quite difficult with the job market and issues around immigration posing some challenges, Mrs Day said.

The couple were keen for stronger promotion of the industry in schools. It offered so much variety through the seasons and it was not just about growing grass.

It involved running a big business, there was amazing technology coming through and it was an exciting career.

“If you work hard and are focused and your goal is to move up, you can achieve quite an amazing amount within the industry,” Mrs Day said.

And for her husband, there was an opportunity to see his children at breakfast and lunch, something that would not have happened in Wellington.

Future farming goals included another contract milking position with the ultimate goal of farm ownership.

Laura Murdoch was named the winner of the 2022 Southland/Otago Dairy Manager of the Year category.

The 38-year-old has experienced the awards programme previously and found it helpful to receive unbiased feedback on her progression plans and to identify areas to upskill.

The former accountant entered the dairy industry in 2017 and believed her skillset and natural bond with cows was in its own niche within the industry.

“I have a passion for learning, progression and animal welfare, as well as excellent best-practices for farming in general.

She aimed to be a leader in the industry and inspire others with her journey. “I’d love to showcase the joys and highlights of dairy farming, it’s a very rewarding industry to be a part of.”

“I’d love to help remove some of the wrongly-assumed stigma that’s often associated with dairying,” she said.

Dairy Trainee of the Year Aidan Roe, who has an agricultural science degree from Lincoln University, believed the Covid-19 pandemic had shown the world how important the food and fibre sectors were.

A2 Milk Company Ltd (ATM.NZ) said on Wednesday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deferred its request to sell infant milk formula products in the United States, sending its shares down more than 12%.

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