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Agriculture

Manager one step closer to goal

Kim Stewart Oct 10
Manager one step closer to goal
Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year Renee Washington rears around 200 calves each year at Waihewe Farms.

The 2019 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year, Renee Howard, has her sights set on farm ownership.

Renee and husband Benjamin have a five to ten year plan to buy Benjamin’s family farm in Whakatane.

Winning the award brings them one step closer towards their goal.

“It’s really given me a lot of confidence in my management style and that I know what I’m doing and can trust myself more,” she says.

Renee had entered the awards four times previously and was third placegetter in the 2017/2018 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year category.

She is in her first season as the farm manager of Andy Short’s 150ha, 340 cow property in Palmerston North.

The farm, run under Waihewe Farms Ltd, has predominantly friesian cows and a basic 22 bail herringbone shed.

Renee, who holds a Bachelor of Agri-Science majoring in Agriculture from Massey University, says her main focus is to maximise pasture growth and utilise feed effectively.

This can be a challenge due to the steep topography of the farm and clay soils, which see the farm get very wet or dry quickly.

As Andy also has a support farm located three minutes away, felixibility is brought into the system as cows can be transferred between units depending on weather and feed conditions.

For example when there is a surplus of feed extra cows are brought onto the unit to utilise it and speed up the rotation.

During winter the farm Renee manages is destocked to protect pastures.

Renee split calves – 250 in spring and 100-120 in winter.

Summer feed is always a struggle so something new Renee will try this season is growing chicory instead of the usual crop of turnips, which has had low yields for the past two seasons.

Around 24ha will be grown and each year 12-15ha is put back into new pasture to keep improving the paddocks.

Renee has had some limited experience growing chicory but says she is learning from Benjamin’s parents who have a lot of expertise in managing this crop.

Waihewe Farms also operates a calf-rearing enterprise giving additional flexibility as milk is either feed to calves in a lower dairy payout year or, if the price is right, more milk is put into the vat.

A large number of calves are reared each year with Renee personally rearing around 200 of these.

It’s also a way for her and Benjamin, currently a dairy service technician, to get closer to their goal of farm ownership because as part of her contract she gets 20 calves each year to rear and sell or to keep.

The couple are also building equity by owning their own home in Feilding, which they are in the process of renovating.

Renee says she considers Andy a mentor and they work together well as a team.

Renee also won two merit awards as part of the Dairy Manager of the Year competition – Personal Planning and Financial Management and Livestock Management.

She plans to undertake some business courses to help her gain an even greater understanding of the financial side of farming.

She achieves work/life balance through playing sport and cake making and decorating.

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