A Buddhist couple whose personal philosophy forbids them owning cows has taken out the Canterbury/North Otago Share Farmer of the Year title.
Ohakune sharemilkers Jemima and Thomas Bebbington are the 2019 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmers of the Year.
Thomas (36) and Jemima (33) now 50:50 share-milk 425 cows on a 160ha Ohakune property owned by Andrew Wightman. This is the couple’s sixth season share-milking. They also won three merit awards.
The Bebbingtons say the strength of their farming business lies in the teams they have created to support their goal of growing their business.
Entering the dairy industry awards has given them a better understanding of their business.
“The awards gave us the opportunity to look into every nook and cranny of our farming business, and receive feedback from farming professionals,” say the couple, who have entered the awards twice previously.
They won $9560 in prizes at the awards dinner night held at the Awapuni Race Course in Palmerston North. The other major winners were the 2019 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year Renee Howard and the 2019 Manawatu Dairy Trainee of the Year Nick Besinga.
The Bebbingtons work together onfarm and are a cohesive unit. “Tom and I are a strong team, encouraging each other and bringing out each other’s strengths,” says Jemima.
“We have a strong financial team also, with our bank manager and accountant working with us and creating positive conversations around growing our business together.”
When not working on the farm, the Bebbingtons are active in their local community, enjoying family time at the lake and are involved in motocross with their three children Violet (6), Jack (4) and Charlotte (2).
Their dairying careers have not been without challenges.
“There was a lot of pressure with the low payouts of 2015-16,” remembers Tom. “We feel that the ability to move farms to a bigger position despite that low payout was because of great investments and management. The bank saw that we were capable of servicing the debt and would make the most of the opportunity.”
The couple aim to excel in the dairy industry by being profitable and sustainable while enjoying a healthy work/life balance. “We want to [own a farm] and provide a sound financial and environmental business to support the growth of our family and all others involved.”
Runners-up in the Manawatu Share Farmer of the Year competition are Raetihi contract milkers Alyssa and David Rae who won $5700 in prizes and two merit awards.
The Raes are first-time entrants and are passionate about the dairy industry. “We saw the awards as a great opportunity to see where we are currently and what we can do to further improve and grow as dairy farmers,” they say.
“We love the lifestyle and enjoy working as a team through the challenging times and learning better ways of doing things,” says Alyssa (28). “We love animals and find it rewarding watching the new-born calves develop into healthy replacements then come into the herd.”
David and Alyssa contract milk 630 cows on a 275ha Raetihi property owned by Ron Frew.
She plays sport, bakes cakes
The 2019 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year is Renee Howard.
She won $6596 in prizes and two merit awards.
Howard has entered the awards three times before and was third placegetter in the 2018 Manawatu Dairy Manager of the Year category.
She says there are many benefits to entering, including increasing her self-confidence and benchmarking key performance indicators (KPIs) she can influence onfarm.
“It has also given me a great opportunity to analyse my current position with regards to my employment and personal goals, which has reassured me that I’m on the right path for the future,” says Howard.
“I’m proud that I had multiple job offers after completing the industry awards last year.”
Howard is the farm manager for Andy Short’s 150ha, 420 cow property in Palmerston North and holds a B.Agri.Sc (Ag) from Massey University. She achieves a work/life balance by playing sport and cake making and decorating.
“The biggest challenges I have faced is not having the confidence to put myself out there in the dairy industry
and not understanding my worth.
“The Awards have helped me overcome these challenges and helped me with my career progression – they have got me to where I am today.”