Awards success a ‘real team effort’
For Emma and Laurence Walden, dairy farm managers at Taupo Moana Trust, entering the Dairy Industry Awards was just as much about building and upskilling their team as it was their personal success.
The couple came out on top at this year’s Central Plateau region Farm Manager division, and went on to finish third in the national finals, giving the whole team a real sense of accomplishment because they deliberately used the experience to build knowledge and confidence in their staff on their current farm, Tauhara Farm 601, a stone’s throw from Taupo.
“We have a relatively new-to-the-industry team so I thought it would be a great way to add a real learning experience for them by including them at the on-site presentation. They did very well and the judges commented that it was a really positive thing for us to do,” says Laurence.
Laurence achieved two merit awards in the process; the Dairy NZ Employee Engagement and Fonterra Dairy Management awards.
“It was especially good to have my role as an employer recognised because we work as a real team effort here on the farm.”
This is not his first foray into the awards.
Back in 2010 he entered the Dairy Farm Trainee category coming second and in 2015 he entered the Farm Manager section and got into the finals.
“I didn’t put in the amount of work needed to present thoroughly and effectively so this time and with the help of a friend, and previous winner, the presentation standard was greatly improved. It looked really professional.”
At the National Dairy Awards’ event Laurence was placed third and picked up two merit gongs – The DeLaval Live Stock Management and the James and Sons Feed Management Awards.
Laurence got involved in farming 14 years ago, having initially spent years in forestry, an industry he enjoyed, however when wood prices dropped and people were being laid off, he needed to look for permanent work.
When a mate offered him the opportunity to come into the milking shed he jumped at the chance.
Six years ago he became a farm manager and for the last three seasons he’s enjoyed the opportunities and experiences working at Tauhara 601.
“Next season we get the opportunity to progress again when I manage both dairy farms owned by the Trust. They have been tremendously positive and supportive of us.”
The farm has a 365 ha (effective) milking platform, consisting of 85% flat with the balance in rolling and steep land.
This year the 66 aside herringbone shed with a drop rail puts through at peak 1030 cross-bred cows.
The herd came with the farm originally part of the Craifer Farms network and a focus for the owners and Laurence has been in improving condition.
This season the target of 386,000 kgMS has been surpassed and when NZ Dairy spoke with the couple the tail end of milkers were being dried off having achieved 389,000 kgMS for the season.
“We are a system 5 farm. A 1000 hectare run-off adjoining the farm produces grass and Lucerne silage. Apart from that there is very little other input,” says Laurence.
Working on the farm and in the role of 2IC is Morgan Wesche, new to the game.
In his second season Morgan has proven his capability and next season when Laurence steps up to take over management of both dairy farms Morgan will also take up more responsibility.
Senior dairy assistant, NgawaiRiki, shed manager, Maryanne Nikora and dairy assistant, Mark Short all contribute to the successful operation of the farm.
Laurence says that a focus now is in improving pasture quality.
The couple have five children, aged 11 months to 19 years old, s o life is busy.
Emma, however, enjoys responsibility for overseeing the young stock.
“We rear all the calves between the two farms. With Laurie’s new role I will help him in any way I can. We are committed to making a success of this new opportunity and proving ourselves to the Trust. We hope the next step will be contract milking,” says Emma.
That support was no less evident that on the night of the national finals, the Trust bought a table and funded the cost of accommodation.
“The experience of attending the final and seeing just how high the standards are is something that can only improve your own farming. There’s an incredible amount of knowledge in the dairy industry at all levels,” says Laurence.
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