Otto Dogterom advocates to keep farming an ‘attractive’ profession in NZ

“Dairy farmers generate jobs and generate considerable revenue for the country. For the future of New Zealand, it is important to keep the profession attractive.”

Otto Dogterom, New Federated Farmers Dairy Rep for North Otago

New Federated Farmers Dairy Rep for North Otago Otto Dogterom sees a key part of his role as helping the New Zealand public to understand the importance of dairy farming to their daily lives.

“Dairy farmers generate jobs and generate considerable revenue for the country. Primary industry is really important for the future of New Zealand,” he says.

Another focus is advocating for farmers to result in workable legislation. He sees Federated Farmers as a key conduit to disseminate information to policymakers and as a way for farmers to unite and get their point of view across.

Otto brings a long career in farming to his role. Originally hailing from Holland, he had his first foray into farming when he was just six years old helping out on a family friend’s farm.

Otto had come from a long line of farmers but his own family hadn’t really farmed apart from his father farming for a couple of years early in his career before he became an editor for a dairy industry paper.

But farming was obviously in young Otto’s blood as he immediately started on a small farm of 16 cows when he left school. He moved to New Zealand in 1993 and had enough money to purchase his first farm.

It was the start of a successful enterprise, which today spans five dairy farms totalling 1000 hectares, milking 2700 cows, and 800 hectares run off in Duntroon. A mix of sharemilker, contract milkers and managers runs the farms.

Otto's family at the field
Otto Dogterom, his wife Janjira and their daughter Benya.

He is also in partnerships with ex-employees in a further three dairy farms totalling 1200 hectares, milking 1800 cows, and a 500-hectare beef farm running 700 bulls and trading stock, all located in Otago.

It’s proved a good way for Otto to grow his business as well as help others to grow theirs as well. Otto knows firsthand dairy farming can be sustainable environmentally, socially and economically.

The leaching on his dairy farms peaks at 22 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare and goes right down to just 4 kilograms on the runoff.

“A lot of policy is based on emotion and not science and what looks good to the wider public,” he says. “What worries me is how unattractive being a farmer will be for the next generation. For the future of New Zealand, it is important to keep the profession attractive.”

Otto employs around 22 people full-time employment across his farms in Duntroon. Before he converted the farms to dairy, there were just around six full-time jobs. He says the benefits also flow onto the staff’s families and the local communities.

Otto still keeps his hand in as well, saying it creates a good team culture for staff to see him take an active role on the farms. He likes to get out on the tractor and still enjoys all manner of farm work. His wife, Janjira, takes on the administration aspects of the business.

Some of Otto’s kids have also pursued farming careers. His son, Pim, 35, is a farmer in Scotland, and his daughter, Maryn, 34, works for North Otago Irrigation Company. His daughter, Charlotte, 30, is a midwife in Christchurch, Mai, 25, is a part-time social worker and Benya, 13, a student.

Otto’s focus at present is keeping a good eye on the financials of the business with the dairy price going down recently. Despite the challenges, he remains a big believer in dairy farming and in New Zealand.

“It’s still a great country and a great profession.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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