2019 Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Winners Announced

Scoop Business

Cameron and Nicola van Dorsten were announced winners of the region’s Share Farmer of the Year competition at the Southland/Otago Dairy Industry Awards annual dinner held at the Bill Richardson Transport World in Invercargill last night. The other big winners were James Matheson who was named the 2019 Southland/Otago Dairy Manager of the Year, and Caycee Cormack the 2019 Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year.

The van Dorstens, aged 33 and 31 years respectively, are 50/50 sharemilking 575 cows on Ray Parker and Sharon Corcoran 204ha farm in Outram. They won $11,780 in prizes plus four merit awards.

Cameron and Nicola both come from dairy farming backgrounds and enjoy the different challenges the industry offers. “There are always new advances in research and technology.”

“The dairy industry has a good career path which allows for equity growth and the chance for us to progress young people through.”

The 2009 economic downturn created challenges for the couple. “We lost our equity and had to build it back up to where we are now.”

The van Dorstens say they have learnt the importance of working with people who have similar values and goals. “Our staff and network all work together.”

“We continually analyse facets of our business to maximise profit and production for ourselves and our farm owners.”

Cameron and Nicola are first-time entrants to the Awards and say they wanted to fine-tune their business and to lead by example for their staff. “We’ve stepped outside our comfort zone and would like to begin to give back to the industry.”

The couple see farm ownership or an equity partnership in their future, with people who share the same values and aspirations as themselves.

“We’re proud of our out-right herd ownership and seeing our staff go on into management roles.”

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian Energy, Ravensdown and Westpac along with industry partners DairyNZ and Primary ITO.

Runner-up in the Southland-Otago competition went to Miguel Ortiz, aged 34 years who won $6,000 in prizes and two merit awards.

The first-time entrant is a contract milker for Gerald and Mark Spain on their 268ha, 800-cow property in Invercargill.

“I entered the Awards as it’s an opportunity to represent the industry and province that I am so passionate about,” says Miguel.

Miguel is proud of where he is today, after arriving in New Zealand from Chile without knowing any English. “From the bottom, we have taken every step to get where we are now. It has been challenging to learn the language, the culture and from a financial aspect also.”

Miguel is a keen soccer player and coach and loves the lifestyle the dairy industry offers him and his family.

He believes the strengths of his business lies in the pasture management and in their financial position. “My wife Maka and I work very hard together.”

Third place went to Paddy Bentham, who qualified and worked as an automotive technician before entering the dairy industry. He won $4000 in prizes and one merit award.

Paddy contract milks on Adolf Hardegger 280ha farm at Drummond, where he milks 700 cows.

The 30-year-old has been farming for seven years and says he saw entering the Awards as a way grow his network and receive feedback on the different areas he does well and can improve on.

“The pathway to farm ownership is still offered, and I enjoy the variety of work.”

Future farming goals include farm ownership within three years.

25-year-old James Matheson was named the winner of the Southland/Otago Dairy Manager of the Year category.

James won $8000 in prizes plus two merit awards and is the Farm Manager for Chris Lawlor on his 290ha, 700-cow Gore property. He placed third in the same category last year.

“The Awards are a great experience and it’s a good way to challenge yourself to perform to the best of your ability.”

James has been in his current management position for five years and is proud to have secured that role after only two years in the industry. “It was a challenge at times, though.”

“I love the variety of work and having the ability to train other people and encourage them into the dairy industry,” he says.”

James believes a strength of his business is a strong team environment and a focus on bringing people through the industry. “I strive to create an enjoyable and focused workplace.”

Winton Farm Manager Bridget Bell, aged 25 years, was second in the Dairy Manager category, winning $3,500 in prizes and three merit awards.

Bridget always knew she wanted to farm and entered the industry straight from school. “I love the variety of work, the challenges and now I love seeing people grown in their roles and progress. I love training people.”

Currently working for John and Diane Smith and Gary Watkins on their Avondale Dairies 327ha property, milking 1000 cows, Bridget believes one of the strengths of the business lies in the excellent team of people she works with. “The sharemilkers, Tony and Vicki Miles, put cows and people first. Cows are always fed and looked after.”

“They are also very good business people. Running farms to a high standard isn’t easy and they do it very well.”

Future farming goals for Bridget and her husband Hamish include training, coaching and mentoring young people. “I’d like to help them to achieve their farm and personal goals and to progress through the industry.”

40-year-old Wyndham Farm Manager Michael Pelesco placed third and won $2,500 in prizes and two merit awards. Michael works on Fortuna Group Ltd’s 488ha farm, milking 1300 cows.

The first-time entrant saw the Awards as an opportunity to develop and upskill himself. “I now have more understanding around running the whole business.”

Michael holds a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) majoring in Animal Science and sees his staff as a strength of his business. “The staff ensure the work is done and coupled with that is health and safety – it’s important to get everyone home safely every day.

The 2019 Southland-Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year, Caycee Cormack, came third in the same category in 2018.

She says one of the benefits of entering the Awards is the contacts she has made that have helped her improve her dairy career. “The positive feedback from last year helped me gauge my strengths and weaknesses, enabling me to focus on areas that needed improving.”

The 25-year-old is 2IC for Stefan and Holly Roulston on their 220ha Heriot property, milking 600 cows.

“Farming is a great industry to work your way up through the ranks and as I enjoy a challenge, this appealed to me,” says Caycee.

“I enjoy working outdoors, love working with all animals and enjoy the fact that no two days are every the same.”

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee category was 23-year-old Wyndham Farm Assistant Herd Manager Eilish Duthie who won $1,750 in prizes and three merit awards. Eilish works on Blair and Brooke McKenzie’s 345ha, 1100-cow farm.

Eilish entered the Awards to challenge herself and improve her skills. “It’s also given me a goal to work towards.”

Off-farm, Eilish competes her own horses in dressage competitions and is a coach at the Invercargill Kennington Pony Club.

Third place in the Dairy Trainee competition went to 19-year-old 2IC Hayden Smith who won $1,500 in prizes. Hayden works for James and Darnelle Smith on their 139ha, 380-cow farm in Wyndham.

The Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards winners field day will be held on April 17 at 11.00am at 407 Bull Creek Road, RD1, Outram where Share Farmers of the Year, Cameron and Nicola van Dorsten sharemilk. Also presenting at the field day will be the region’s Dairy Manager of the Year, James Matheson, and Dairy Trainee of the Year, Caycee Cormack. Further details on the winners and the field day can be found at

Share Farmer Merit Awards:
• DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Cameron and Nicola van Dorsten
• Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Regan Crawford
• Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Paddy Bentham
• Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – Miguel Ortiz
• LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Cameron and Nicola van Dorsten
• Meridian Farm Environment Award – Cameron and Nicola van Dorsten
• Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Miguel Ortiz
• Westpac Business Performance Award – Cameron and Nicola van Dorsten

Dairy Manager Merit Awards:

• Dairy Holdings Ltd Most Promising Entrant – Elyse Fletcher
• Southland/Otago DIA Encouragement Award – Michael Pelesco
• AWS Legal Employee Engagement Award – Bridget Bell
• Shand Thomson Leadership Award – Bridget Bell
• McIntyre Dick and Partners Feed Management Award – James Matheson
• DeLaval Livestock Management Award – Elyse Fletcher
• Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Bridget Bell
• PrimaryITO Power Play Award – James Matheson
• Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award – Michael Pelesco

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:
• Hydroflow Most Promising Entrant Award – Jakeb Lawson
• FarmRight Farming Knowledge Award – Meliame Mackenzie
• Landpro Community and Industry Involvement Award – Eilish Duthie
• FMG Communication and Engagement Award - Eilish Duthie
• DairyNZ Practical Skills Award - Eilish Duthie