South Africans win farm awards

There was a South African treble at the 2015 Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards last night, with all three major winners having South African roots.

The district’s sharemilker/equity farmers of the year, Johan and Theona Blom, farm managers of the year, Nathan and Elri Levin, and dairy trainee of the year, Gerard van der Mark, were all born in South Africa.

The 2015 Central Plateau Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year are Johan and Theona Blom of Ngakuru.

“It’s a really exciting result and one I’m sure that will travel far as the news spreads to friends and family in their homeland,” Central Plateau Dairy Industry Awards regional manager John Butterworth says.

“The results also prove that there are fantastic opportunities available in the New Zealand dairy industry for people with the right attitude to enter and progress quickly.”

The three winners were announced at the region’s awards dinner at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua on March 2.

Johan and Theona Blom immigrated to New Zealand in 2008 and have quickly progressed up the industry. Johan, aged 47 years, began as an assistant herd manager and the couple is now 50 per cent sharemilking 270 cows for Ron and Jan Hall at Ngakuru.

They arrived well qualified for the industry, as Johan had been working as a drystock agricultural extension officer having obtained a Bachelor of Science majoring in Agriculture. Theona, aged 43 years, was an accountant.

“We entered the Waikato Farm Manager of the Year competition in 2011 and Central Plateau Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the Year in 2013, and think the benefits of entering the awards are in fine-tuning our business and not getting complacent.

“Our team work and attention to detail in capturing data through measuring and monitoring are our strengths. Having good information definitely helps to make proactive decisions and we work very well when we put our individual strengths together.”

The goal for the Bloms, who won $15,300 in prizes, is to invest in a drystock or heifer grazing block.

Runner-up in the region’s sharemilker/equity farmer contest was Reporoa 20 per cent equity farm managers, Ross and Karla Shaw, winning $5500 in prizes.

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

A change of career has proved a winning move for 2015 Central Plateau Farm Managers of the Year, Nathan and Elri Levin. They won $7400 in prizes.

The couple left the adventure sport and wine industries in South Africa eight years ago to become dairy farm assistants in New Zealand and have progressed to their current position, contract milking 650 cows at Tokoroa for Ian and Margaret Elliot and John and Erica Trebilco. 

Aged 46 and 43, the couple entered the awards for the first time last year, placing second, and said the experience was valuable. “We got advice from leaders within the industry and were able to surround ourselves with positive people.”

The couple hold a bachelors degree in econonics and a diploma in office administration, and say their strengths are in their commitment, drive and organisation. They plan to go 50 per cent sharemilking 400 cows in 2016.

Reporoa contract milkers Reece Williams and Jessica Berry placed second in the farm manager contest, winning $5000 in prizes. Third went to Reporoa contract milkers Matt and Chloe Walker, who won $1800.

The 2015 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year, Gerard van der Mark, was in a hurry to start his dairy farming career, packing his bags and moving to his first position after finishing his last school exam. 

His haste has been rewarded with the title and $6000 in prizes, and follows his third-placing in his first time entering the contest last year.

“I found lots of benefits from entering last year’s competition. The awards night was a fun event to attend and the whole experience just built my confidence in public speaking and general dairy farming knowledge.”

The 22-year-old is second in charge on a 900-cow Mangakino farm owned by the Sargent Family Trust. He and wife Marcelle have two young children and are progressing to a 600-cow contract milking position in June.

The couple, born in South Africa, has registered their company Maziwa Pride (which means dairy in Swahili), and plan to further their dairy education and business management. “When we have figured out the business side of things, we would like to save up as much money as possible and grow as quick as possible to reach our long term farming goal of buying our first dairy farm at the age of 35.”

Rotorua farm assistant Colin Tremain, aged 26, was second winning $2100 in prizes. Atiamuri 2IC Olivia Wade, aged 22, was third, winning $1070 in prizes.

Central Plateau Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year, Johan and Theona Blom, will host a field day on March 26, while Farm Managers of the Year, Nathan and Elri Levin, will host a field day on the Tokoroa farm they manage on March 19.


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