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Strategic approach drives success

Tom O'Leary Oct 10
Strategic approach drives success
Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year Joe Kehely

Nothing beats growing up on a farm to gain an early understanding of the value of hard work and good planning.

So says 21-year-old Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year for 2019, Joe Kehely, who has not been slow to put these lessons into practice.

In March, he won the top dairy industry award, plus five merit awards, while working for Craig and Jan Tomalin, managing three neighbouring dairy farms in Putaruru.

At the start of May, he and his wife Danielle took up a new role, contract milking 740 cows outside Kaitaia.

“It’s a three year contract and after that our next goal is to go 50:50 sharemilking,” he says.

As a third time entrant in the Dairy Industry Awards, Joe can vouch for the benefits of the process, including networking with other like-minded people and learning how to better manage financial matters.

“It means you’re not just working hard and saving hard. You’re looking ahead and thinking about progression and what you need to do to get there.”

As a teenager, Joe already had a keen appreciation of where a farming career could lead.

His father Shaun ran a shearing gang in the South Island in his youth.

Later Shaun and his wife Fiona switched to sheep and beef and, eventually, dairy farming.

“They started out doing 50:50 on a 120 hectare farm milking 190 cows. Over 15 years they grew that to 1300 cows on a 1000 hectare farm at Oropi in the Bay of Plenty. They were extremely hard workers, especially my old man, but really enjoyed what they did and that passion rubbed off on me too.”

In his high school years, Joe recalls doing his homework on the bus home before heading out to feed calves, spray weeds or lend a hand on what-ever other jobs needed doing.

He soon appreciated there was good money to be made from work like relief milking and rearing calves.

“By the time I was 16, I was able to afford my first house. I really do think the experience gave me a 10 year head start on everyone else and I knew nearly all I had to about farming though I have carried on learning in every new job.”

After leaving school, he worked as a 2IC in Te Awamutu for a year before spending a season working for Craig and Jan on one of their farms in Putaruru.

After that he spent a year and a half as a manager for his older brother Dave, a 50:50 sharemilker, before taking up the farm manager’s role with Craig and Jan.

“My goal was to try and improve farm performance and take it to the next level.”

Considerable improvements in animal health and dairy production were achieved during his time as farm manager.

“The key is to make sure all the little things are being done right.”

Joe credits much of the success to date on the strong communication he shares with South African-born Danielle.

“We think in synch and know how to run things together.”

The award recognition has been the icing on the cake for the hard working couple.

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