If perseverance is the key to success, then West Coast contract milkers Carl Wilmshurst and Anna Boulton are shining role models. Runners-up at last year’s West Coast-Top of South Share Farmer of the Year Competition, the couple walked away proud winners of this year’s competition.
The awards were announced at the West CoastTop of the South Dairy Industry Awards annual awards’ dinner recently held in Nelson, attended by Carl and Anna. The couple milk 390 cows on Carl’s parents’ 160 hectare farm in Kowhitirangi, Hokitika.
Feeling a bit like ‘a possum in the headlights’ when the announcement was made, Carl says he had not expected to win the top award and was shocked. “I was a bit overwhelmed at the time.
It’s certainly something that Anna and I are very proud of and won’t forget. Hopefully we will continue learning from the experience. Winning does reinforce your own confidence in your farming ability and the operation you’re running.”
Leaning more to the side of being introverted, Carl says the competition threw him beyond his comfort zone – all part of learning and good for growing his self-confidence in social settings, he says.
The couple also received the Meridian Energy Farm Environment, Ravensdown Pasture Performance and Westpac Business Performance Merit awards.
“We’re stoked with the merit awards that we won. I was probably proudest of winning the pasture one,” says Carl.
“I enjoy the pasture side of things the most and try my best at it. So it was great to be recognised for that – it means you’re doing something right.” Carl’s advice to anyone looking at entering the competition is to manage your time effectively so that you can get the most from the experience.
“Not only do you learn more about how to improve your farming operation, you also learn a lot about yourselves.”
Although Carl grew up on a farm, he initially chose a very different career path, qualifying as a chartered accountant and working in a Hokitika practice.
Anna holds a degree in Sport and Recreation Management. In 2015 an opportunity arose due to staff departing his parents’ farm and after discussions with Carl’s parents the couple moved on to the family farm as contract milkers. Anna and Carl have now almost completed their third season.
“I knew the practical side of milking cows but had a lot to learn from dad in respect to pasture management,” explains Carl. “We’re a good team and work well together.”
Grappling with an average rainfall of 4.5 metres, Carl says the silty loam soil can get very wet, challenging pasture growth and utilisation. Purchasing a pasture aerator last year enabled Carl to aerate about 100 hectares of the farm over the autumn period.
“That has increased pasture growth and improved utilization because the cows aren’t pushing the grass into the ground, effectively minimizing the destructive effects of pugging.”
With six metres of rainfall being recorded for the area between January and December 2017, Carl’s pasture aeration was more than timely.
The use of a feedpad all year round has also helped reduce pasture damage and increase feed utilisation. This year the couple celebrated the birth of their first child, Eva.
Carl says that while life does change with the introduction of a baby, Anna still manages to get out on the farm as much as she can.
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