He’s gone from herding bus passengers around Europe to moving cows around the farm.
Mark Rivers has handled that transition so well he is this year’s winner of the 2021 Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year competition.
Mark is a former Contiki bus driver in Europe and New Zealand who entered the Awards to gain some perspective on the next step for his family and identify areas to improve.
Mark grew up on a dairy farm and was always helping out from a young age. “I attended Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in 2000 and then began work on a 300-cow farm which grew to 500-cows the next season,” says Mark.
Then, he headed overseas to drive buses around Europe – an experience that helped him gain a deeper understanding of people and how the world works.
That different perspective helped him land a job as manager for Brett and Karen Sterritt’s 98ha 400-cow Atiamuri property.
He lives there with his partner Monique and their children Bodhi, 3, and Thea, 1.
“I want my children to grow up in the country as I did.”
Returning to the dairy industry after time away did present its challenges.
“Different systems had developed and I came back to a system 4/5 farm which was different to the system 1/2 style of farming I grew up with.”
“I’m pretty proud that in my first season of managing I helped improve the six-week in-calf rate from 69 per cent to 77 per cent.”
Alongside water irrigation over 90ha, Mark credits the farm’s herd home as a strength of the business.
“It allows us to house cows overnight during the winter months and limit damage to pastures as well as efficiently use our supplements.
“We also calve in the herd homes which is easier on the cows and calves, not to mention the staff.”
Mark is excited about the technological advancements that enable farmers to make real-time decisions, leading to a more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly farming operation.
Mark enjoys spending time with his family and plays two or three games a year for the local cricket club.
“My family drives me during the harder times and I genuinely enjoy getting up to the challenges of farming. I know the hard times are going to make me better equipped to make decisions in the future.”
He says Brett and Karen have been “awesome employers” who pushed him to aim for the farm’s goal of being in the top five per cent.
He is now turning his attention to the next stage of his career and has taken up a contract milking role in Lichfield near Tokoroa.