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Managing dairy role to achieve work-life balance

Managing dairy role to achieve work-life balance
The birth of his son, Nico, has prompted South Waikato farm manager Nga Apaapa to consider how he can better balance time on the farm with family time.

After seven years in dairying, South Waikato farm manager Nga Apaapa has accomplished many career goals but quality time with his family is now top of the list as he weighs up future options.

Nga and his wife Maegen are proud parents of eight month old baby Nico. The birth of their son has prompted Nga to consider how he can better balance time on the farm with family time.“He’s our new adventure,” says Nga, “so next season I’ll be looking at going to something smaller scale so I can spend more time with him and not be as busy on-farm.”

For this season, though, he’s focussed on doing a good job as contract milker and manager for Alan and Liz Syme, of Mataroa Dairy Ltd. Nga is in his second season on the Tirau farm, a 230 hectare (210 effective) property milking 700 cows. The bulk of the farmland is fl at to rolling, with the remainder being steep hill country.

The goal for the herd is to achieve cross-bred Friesian-Jersey cows, but Nga observes there is still some way to go.“This farm used to be System 5 and probably bred big healthy Friesians to maximise milk produc-tion but over the past fi ve years they’ve been moving to System 3, which needs smaller animals.”

The shift away from System 5 initially saw milk production per cow fall away but that’s improving again now as the smaller cross-bred cows come through in the herd. “Last season we got back up to 400kgMS per cow.”

System 5 was simply not economically sustain-able for this farm, which had become heavily reliant on imported feed to drive production. Today the focus is very much back on grass and pasture, with a good spring having set up the farm well. Three times more silage has been made on-farm this year compared to last year.

Nga is a high achiever in dairying, having placed third in the 2018 Waikato Dairy Manager of the Year competition, while working for Bruce and Donna Arnold’s 200ha Tatuanui farm, milking 765 cows. He previously placed second in the same category in Taranaki in 2014, also receiving a leadership award.

He began his dairying career in Taranaki, learning the ropes as an agricultural trainee in his teens before quickly moving into farm manager roles and then progressing to contract milking in the Waikato.“By 2015 I realised I’d taken on too much, too fast and it felt like I was in at the deep end, so I wound up deciding to step sideways and take some time to work on myself. That’s when I went back to work as a farm manager.”

Now, with several more seasons under his belt, he’s enjoying his current contract milking/manager role, working the farm with two other full-time staff. “I love working with others and watching them progress in the industry and take the same pathways as me.”

At the same time, he’s looking forward to making more time for his family and, as such, has no plans to pursue herd or farm ownership at this stage. Interests off farm include being a firefighter with the Tirau Fire Brigade. He and Meagan also bought a boat last year as a reward for all the hard work over the years.

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