Child born one day, facing NZ Dairy judges the next

Child born one day, facing NZ Dairy judges the next
South Canterbury contract milkers Paula and Dan McAtamney, 2018 winners of the Canterbury/North Otago Share Farmer of the Year award.

No matter which way you look at it, giving birth to your first child one day and doing a presentation to the judges of the Dairy Industry Awards the next day is a pretty amazing effort – resilient farmers for sure.
Such was the case with South Canterbury contract milkers, Daniel and Paula McAtamney, this year’s winners of the Canterbury/North Otago Share Farmer of the Year Award, by a country mile, collecting no fewer than five merit awards along the way.
“Paula had our baby the day before judging so we were pretty tired when we were doing the presentation. We came pretty much from the hospital to the cow shed to do the presentation for final judging.”
Attending the Awards dinner two weeks later, the couple thought they might pick up a placing but had no inkling how well they would do.
“We felt shocked,” says Dan “We got quite a few of the merit awards so we started thinking – ‘oh well we might actually do pretty well here’. We were pretty stoked really.”
Dan and Paula have been farming for almost four seasons, nearly all of that time working together as a team on various farms.
Paula says that one of the things the judges commented on was how well she and Dan worked as a team. She says that from a learning perspective, analyzing their business, finding their weak points and strengthening them was a key benefit of the competition process.
Dan agrees, adding that meeting people, networking with like-minded people and making friendships was another positive outcome from the competition.
While Paula grew up on her parents’ dairy farm, Dan’s background is beef, sheep and deer.
“I felt dairy was quite a good pathway to get into farming in your own right,” says Dan. “I always thought I might like to try dairy farming and when an opportunity came up to do so I took it.
” Dan and Paula’s complementary skill sets, along with their natural sense of teamwork, have weighed heavily in their farming success throughout the four years they have been farming together.
“Paula’s dairy background has definitely been helpful to us as a team. I knew the farming side of things – fencing, pastures, cropping and machinery and I had a pretty good stock sense.
But I didn’t know so much about the dairy side of things – feeding of cows to get production and my way round the dairy shed.
The couple is in their first season farming 300ha of irrigated dairy platform in Rangitata, half way between Ashburton and Timaru.
With the help of five team members, they milk 1150 kiwi-cross cows through a 50-bale rotary shed. Dan says that they are on target to achieve 446kg of solids per cow this season. He says people are the key to dairy farming – you are only as good as your team.
“It’s the most rewarding part. You get a lot of satisfaction when you train someone and they go on to manage or they step up the next season.”
With the birth of young Addilyn, Paula is currently a little less hands on farm-wise, though she is adamant that she will be rearing calves this coming season.
“I’ll still be on the farm but I wont have a set role on the roster – it will just be more flexible I would say.”
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