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Bold approach earns Tirau couple top New Zealand dairying award

A bold decision to enter the dairy industry led to a young Tirau couple winning the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards in Hamilton last night (Friday, June 27).

Adrian and Pauline Ball, representing the Hauraki-Piako region, were the winners of the prestigious Farm Business Award in front of a crowd of 400 of their dairy farming peers at Mystery Creek's Bledisloe Hall, last night (Friday, June 27).

Their win was the culmination of a bold entry into the industry in 1994 when they converted their farm to dairying, despite having no previous dairy farming experience. However, Adrian Ball, 31, and Pauline Ball, 29, learnt quickly and now own and operate a 115 hectare farm, milking 370 cows.

Fonterra Chairman Henry van der Heyden says the Ball's winning efforts reflected their abilities both as dairy farmers and business people.

"The Balls, and the other finalists, have been hugely impressive in their ability to manage on-farm efficiencies and be cost-effective milk producers," he says. "Essentially, they're setting benchmarks for other farmers within the industry."

Mr van der Heyden says having a supplier base utilising superior farm practices is essential in Fonterra's desire to be a world leader in the dairy industry.

"If we're the best we can be on the farm, then there's a real chance we can be the leader in all aspects of dairying."

Achieving the position as New Zealand's best dairy farmers in only nine years was a tribute to Adrian and Pauline Ball's commitment and business planning, Mr van der Heyden says. Each of the finalists farms were visited for three hours. They were judged on their business growth, quality management, human resources, productivity and environment.

One of the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards judges, Westpac Agribusiness Manager Lachie McLeod, says the Ball's all-round abilities earned them the title.

"The fact they also won the Livestock Improvement Productivity Award, and two specialist awards in their regional finals, proves they have the skills in many areas that are required to run a successful enterprise," Mr McLeod says.

The Balls aim for a return on capital of greater than 11% annually, business growth and productivity targets of 8 to 10% annually, and for their net worth to increase 10 to 15% annually.

Mr McLeod says the standard of all the entrants was extremely high and the future of New Zealand's dairy industry seems in good hands given the calibre of farmers. "These farmers are really the best of the best, both as experts in dairying and as business people - it was a great pleasure judging them."

Other major trophies presented last night included the Holden NZ Lifetime Achievement Award, the RD1 Farm Manager Award, and the DTS Environment Award. Dr Patrick Shannon received the Holden NZ Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the New Zealand dairy industry. Dr Shannon, a Livestock Improvement scientist, researched and developed many of the major herd improvement programmes currently utilised by dairy farmers. These programmes have contributed significantly to New Zealand's position as a world leader in the dairying industry. He remains an active member of LIC's research team.

Among his many achievements was the development of liquid semen technologies and a semen allocation and distribution system, a world leading dairy sire progeny testing programme, and sire and cow production and breeding indexes. The accumulated benefit of these programmes has been calculated as adding in excess of $350 million to dairy farmers incomes in the 2002/2003 season. This amount increases annually.

Dr Shannon is already a highly recognised member of the dairy industry, having received the inaugural McMeekin Award in 1974, a Doctorate in Science from Waikato University in 1988 for his thesis on genetic improvement in New Zealand dairy cattle, a Science and Technology Medal in 1996, and a Queens Service Order (QSM) in 1999.

Shanan Wadsworth won the RD1 Farm Manager Award for his work overseeing a herd of 800 cows on Colin and Dale Armer's 220 hectare Te Puke dairy farm. Mr Wadsworth says the great working relationship he has with his employers, and ensuring staff members are valued and provided with opportunities to increase their own skills, are his main farming attributes.

Greg and Gerry Glover, of Koromatua near Waikato, were announced the DTS Environment Award winners. The Glovers milk 920 cows on 281 hectares and are constantly reviewing their environmental responsibilities. Soil protection systems and an extensive tree planting initiative, as well as staff training in animal welfare, Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, and personal development has resulted in the Glover's success. Other winners included:

Fegan and Co Human Resources Award: Neil and Julie Hamilton, Waitaki

Oamaru-based Neil and Julie Hamilton received the Fegan and Co Human Resources Award for their ability in managing 540 cows on 162 hectares. The Hamiltons use 2.5 labour units (one labour unit equals 2400 hours per year), and regard their staff as a valuable part of a farming enterprise that has a strong focus on team work.

Pioneer Business Growth Award: Bruce and Julie Paton, Northland

Northland couple Bruce and Julie Paton, who were second overall in the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards, won the Pioneer Business Growth Award. The Patons run two dairy farm operations, a 273 hectare home farm and a further leased 64 hectares, as well as a 250 hectare property that is used for rearing replacement stock. Goal-setting plays an integral part of the Paton's business objectives, including plans to achieve a return on equity of more than 10% each year, increase their net worth by 7% a year and to spend at least 50 % of their working time on tactical and strategic business management.

Ravensdown Fertiliser Quality Management Award: Michael and Heather Burmeister, Pahiatua

Michael and Heather Burmeister, of Pahiatua, were announced the Ravensdown Fertiliser Quality Management Award winners. The Burmeisters own four properties with the main 136 hectare milking unit supporting up to 435 cows. Other properties are used for silage, grazing dairy replacements and yearlings, winter grazing and finishing off bulls. The couple are aiming to produce 1400kg/ms by the 2007/8 season, and have recently increased production from 1135kg/ms to 1250kg/ms.

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