Dairy farmers from Canterbury-North Otago won two of the three national awards given out on Saturday night.
The 2017 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards attracted almost 550 people to Auckland's Sky City Convention Centre. Canterbury-North Otago couple Christopher and Siobhan O'Malley were crowned Share Farmers of the Year and West Coast-Top of the South's Clay Paton was named Dairy Trainee of the Year.
The third category, Dairy Manager of the Year, went to Manawatu's Hayley Hoogendyk.
Two Canterbury-North Otago finalists were runners-up in their sections - Kerry Higgins for the manager title, and Ben Haley for the trainee award. West Coast-Top of the South also produced two Leadership Award winners - manager finalist Jack Raharuhi and share farmer finalists Jon and Vicki Nicholls.
Share Farmer head judge Neil Gray, of Thames, said the judges were impressed with the finalists' commitment to the environment and animal welfare.
The O'Malleys embraced technology to enhance health and safety, he said.
''They presented themselves very well in the interview and were able to articulate their desire to not only progress their career but also to give back to the industry. They had a very unselfish attitude to their whole farm business.
''The O'Malleys demonstrated very strongly that you can put together a high-quality herd of cows within a budget constraint. They put a lot of effort into finding the right cows and travelled many kilometres in the car around New Zealand to find the ones they wanted.
''They have gone on to use this herd to add value to their business by thinking outside the box. They DNA-profiled their herd and selected the A2 cows that were fetching a premium in the livestock market in the Canterbury region. Even though they weren't receiving a premium for A2 milk, they were able to receive a premium for A2 cows by selling them to that market - a clever, innovative idea to maximise livestock income that enabled them to come through a low-payout season without going into further debt.''
The O'Malleys (both 34) are 50:50 sharemilking 515 cows on Graham Brooker's 138ha Ashburton farm.
Dairy Trainee head judge Andrew Reid, from DairyNZ, said Mr Paton (23) had a bright future.
''He has a clear balance between his work priorities and life and family balance. He is very driven but has a strong community focus and an awareness of the issues the industry will be facing in years to come.
''Clay is very family-orientated and wants a healthy and fun lifestyle for his young children. He sees the dairy industry as a way to progress his career and reach his life goals, and his goals of farm ownership must be right for the family.
''One of the things that stood out with Clay was his passion for the dairy industry. He believes that to be successful you have to fall in love with your work, and Clay definitely loves his work.
''Clay is very professional and all the judges agreed that he will be a fantastic ambassador for the dairy industry and a great future leader.''
Watch Clay's award-winning video in the link above.
Mr Paton is second-in-charge on Brent and Michelle Riley's 163ha Wakefield farm, milking 450 cows.
The runner-up, Ben Haley (24), of Ashburton, impressed the judges with his ability to express himself and his passion for his career.
Dairy Manager head judge Richard Kyte, also from DairyNZ, said the finalists' high calibre made judging very difficult.
Ms Hoogendyk (28) was the first sole woman to win the title. The former event manager runs a 220ha, 600-cow farm for Te Paratai Farms Ltd in Rongotea.
Her runner-up, Kerry Higgins (32), of Hororata, was acknowledged for bringing a high level of professionalism to the dairying career he began in 2011. He was previously a senior parliamentary security officer.
2017 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year
Winner, Christopher and Siobhan O'Malley, Canterbury-North Otago; runner-up, Carlos and Bernice Delos Santos, Central Plateau; third, Dion and Johanna Bishell, Taranaki; Human Resources Award, Christopher and Siobhan O'Malley; Farm Dairy Hygiene Award, Carlos and Bernice Delos Santos; Leadership Award, Jon and Vicki Nicholls; Interview Award, Christopher and Siobhan O'Malley; Farm Safety and Health Award, Dion and Johanna Bishell; Recording and Productivity Award, Christopher and Siobhan O'Malley; Farm Environment Award: Dion and Johanna Bishell; Pasture Performance Award: Russell and Tracy Bouma; Business Performance Award, Dion and Johanna Bishell.
2017 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year
Winner, Hayley Hoogendyk, Manawatu; runner-up, Kerry Higgins, Canterbury-North Otago; third, Rachel Foy, Auckland-Hauraki; Interview Award, Greg Imeson; Employee Engagement Award: Anthony Kiff; Leadership Award, Jack Raharuhi; Feed Management Award, Rachel Foy; Livestock Management Award, Shaun Neal; Power Play Award, Hayley Hoogendyk; Dairy Management Award: Kerry Higgins; Financial Management and Planning Award, Kerry Higgins.
2017 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year
Winner, Clay Paton, West Coast-Top of the South; runner-up, Ben Haley, Canterbury-North Otago; third, Taylor Macdonald, Central Plateau; Practical Skills Award, Taylor Macdonald; Communication and Engagement Award, Ben Haley; Best Video Award: Clay Paton.