Wednesday, 04 March 2015 00:00

South Africans dominate at Dairy Awards

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There was a South African flavour to the 2015 Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards last night, with all three major winners having South African roots.

 The Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Johan and Theona Blom, Farm Managers of the Year, Nathan and Elri Levin, and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Gerard van der Mark, were all born in South Africa.

"It's a really exciting result and one I'm sure that will travel far as the news spreads to friends and family in their homeland," Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards regional manager John Butterworth says.

"The results also prove that there are fantastic opportunities available in the New Zealand dairy industry for people with the right attitude to enter and progress quickly."

Johan and Theona Blom arrived in New Zealand in 2008. Before immigrating Johan worked as a drystock agricultural extension officer, having obtained a Bachelor of Science majoring in Agriculture, while Theona was an accountant.

In New Zealand Johan began as an assistant herd manager and the couple is now 50% sharemilking 270 in Ngakuru.

"We entered the Waikato Farm Manager of the Year competition in 2011 and Central Plateau Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year in 2013, and think the benefits of entering the awards are in fine-tuning our business and not getting complacent," says Blom.

"Our team work and attention to detail in capturing data through measuring and monitoring are our strengths. Having good information definitely helps to make proactive decisions and we work very well when we put our individual strengths together."

The Bloms, who won $15,300 in prizes, intend to invest in a drystock or heifer grazing block.

For Central Plateau Farm Managers of the Year, Nathan and Elri Levin a change of career has proved a winning move.

The couple left the adventure sport and wine industries in South Africa eight years ago to become dairy farm assistants in New Zealand and have progressed to their current position, contract milking 650 cows in Tokoroa.

The Levins entered the awards for the first time last year, placing second, and say the experience was valuable.

"We got advice from leaders within the industry and were able to surround ourselves with positive people."

They say their strengths are in their commitment, drive, and organisation. The couple plan to go 50% sharemilking 400 cows in 2016.

The Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year, Gerard van der Mark, was in a hurry to start his dairy farming career, packing his bags and moving to his first position after finishing his last school exam.

This win follows his third-place position in last year's contest.

"I found lots of benefits from entering last year's competition. The awards night was a fun event to attend and the whole experience just built my confidence in public speaking and general dairy farming knowledge."

The 22-year-old is 2IC on a 900-cow Mangakino farm owned by the Sargent Family Trust. He and wife Marcelle will progress to a 600-cow contract milking position in June.

The couple, born in South Africa, have registered their company Maziwa Pride (which means dairy in Swahili). They plan to further their dairy education and business management.

"When we have figured out the business side of things, we would like to save up as much money as possible and grow as quick as possible to reach our long term farming goal of buying our first dairy farm at the age of 35."

Central Plateau Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Johan and Theona Blom, will host a field day on March 26, while Farm Managers of the Year, Nathan and Elri Levin, will host a field day on the Tokoroa farm they manage on March 19.

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