James Holgate has taken out the 2018 Taranaki Dairy Manager of the Year title. James was named runner-up Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year in 2014 and says entering the awards helps to give an outside point of view as well as getting his name out there.
Opportunities have come his way since 2014 with calls from farmers who saw him in the awards so he is looking forward to more potential opportunities after his win this year.
James is in his second season as a herd manager on Tony and Lorraine Lash’s 350-cow dairy farm at Midhirst.
He didn’t grow up on a farm but moved to a lifestyle block when he was 10 at Cardiff, near Stratford, and got relief milking jobs on neighbouring farms while he was at school.
He then moved into a full time farm assistant position on one of those farms before moving to Ngaere to take on a similar position on a 350 cow farm for three years before moving to Midhirst.
Next season he and partner Tracy Kivell will go contract milking. It’s an exciting step for the couple and James says it feels both like it’s taken them a long time to get there and also happened quickly.
“Coming from a non-farming family I knew it wouldn’t be easy. We also felt it was important to live our lives along the way, such as going on a three month OE,” he says.
The Lash’s farm totals 130ha effective/140ha total and milks a herd of jersey cross cows through a 40 aside herringbone shed with automatic cup removers and in-shed feeding system.
The Somatic Cell Count (SCC) has been improved this year and is now sitting at an average of 80,000 for the season.
This has been helped by an improvement in lameness prevention and treatment. An automatic gate timer has been introduced, helping to further reduce lameness.
The weather has made the season the most challenging for James since he started farming – wet in spring then dry – but luckily enough rain has fallen to get them through. James says the in-shed feeding system has been a godsend.
The farm is supported by a 28ha run off lease block in-between Stratford and Midhurst used for replacements, young stock and growing supplement. Stock is wintered on farm.
Last season the farm achieved 152,000 kilograms of milk solids and this season the target is 140,000 kilograms milking 20 less cows than last season. Tony and Lorraine live in New Plymouth and have input into the farm at key times of the season.
Tracy, who hails from a farming background, works full time as an accountant in Stratford and will help out relief milking and in spring when they take over the contract milking position.
They are currently interviewing for a staff member and setting things up for this next step in their careers.
James is hoping that one of the by-products of entering the Dairy Industry Awards is that it will help him with his next goal – 50:50 sharemilking.
He acknowledges farm ownership is the ultimate dream and will be a hard path but he and Tracy are determined to try to achieve the goal.
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