In 2008, Indonesian born Mohammad (Jay) Arifin saw a job advert for dairy workers in New Zealand, which was to change the course of his life. He describes himself as “one of the lucky ones”, when he and four others were selected from 120 applicants and granted New Zealand work visas and a job with Wairarapa Moana Farms in Mangakino.
15 years on, still working for Wairarapa Moana Farms, Jay won the Central Plateau New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards 2023 Dairy Manager of the Year and couldn’t be happier.
A big change
Jay had been farming in East Java, Indonesia, and worked on a traditional dairy farm. The 20 cows were housed in a barn and hand milked. There were five staff, and it was very labour and input intensive.
“I was a bit apprehensive at first. I would be milking 300 cows in New Zealand and there was only the manager and me on the farm. I didn’t know how it would be possible.”
The cow shed was old by New Zealand standards and has since been de-commissioned, but Jay was very impressed with the machine driven milking system.
“I learned so much in that first year and completed a Primary ITO Milk Quality qualification.”
For the first four years, Jay’s wife and son remained in East Java with Jay sending money home and going to visit. His second son was born there in 2011, and in 2012 he was able to bring his family over to New Zealand.
Opportunities to progress
Maori Trust enterprise, Wairarapa Moana Farms have their primary base for their farming operations at Mangakino, in the South Waikato. They manage 12 dairy farms, two dairy support farms and 6000 hectares of forestry.
This multi farm set up allows internal career progression for their farm workers. Jay has worked on several of the farms, taking on more responsibility each time. He completed his Level 5 Production Management qualification in 2015.
The 42-year-old is proud of his achievements in the Wairarapa Moana Awards during his career, which include Dairy Unit of the Year, Nga Tangata (Developing People), Financial, Values and Farm Pride, and winner of Whakamaru biggest bull calf competition for three consecutive years.
Jay has been manager on his current 289 hectare farm since 2016, with four staff working for him. It’s the same farm that he started on, except it now has a modern 54-bale rotary milking shed.
The shed has auto cup removers, auto drafting, a snap chiller and in shed feeding. Jay uses drafting collars on his herd and finds the information that he gathers a great help to his farming operation.
“We have 1055 cows separated into two milking mobs. They are a mixture of Kiwi Cross and Friesian and they are an A2 herd.”
All the calves are DNA tested for the A2 gene and the A2s are kept as replacements.
Photo. Jay Arifin, NZDIA Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year, 2023. Photo: Catherine Fry.
A good experience
Jay’s family love New Zealand life with one son at university and the younger one at secondary school. They were all set to get their permanent residency just before Covid-19 brought everything to a halt, but it is nearly completed.
His current operations manager at Wairarapa Moana, Diego Gomez, won the Taranaki Dairy Manager award at the 2021 NZ Dairy Industry Awards.
“Diego gave me the confidence to enter, although I had no idea what to expect.
“The whole awards process, having to pull apart why I do everything and questioning it was a very helpful process and helped me grow.”
Jay is looking forward to the next stage of his career.