Elaine Fisher

While still at school, Harry Phipps helped on his parents’ Rerewhakaaitu farm and thought dairying was the last career he’d pursue.

Two years on from completing a Diploma in Sports Management, Harry is not only farming, but is also the 2019 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year.

“I was relief milking when I was offered a full-time job and initially saw it as a way to earn an income and be independent. It wasn’t long before I decided farming was pretty cool and I was enjoying it.

“Then I saw the clear career pathways within the industry and the opportunities dairy farming offered people who were motivated and wanted to be the best they could.”

He also enjoyed the return to studying, this time with PrimaryITO.

“The courses are excellent and cover aspects of farming which are applicable to me. It’s good to be in a class with like-minded people,” Harry says. He is studying towards his Level 4 PrimaryITO Dairy Farming.

The herd manager for Gary and Kathy O’Donnell milking 400 cows on the 140-hectare Rotorua farm, won $5770 in prizes and two merit awards.

While as a teenager Harry hadn’t seen himself going farming, he is nonetheless influenced by his parents’ focus on protecting the environment on and around their farm in the ecologically sensitive Lake Rerewhakaaitu catchment.

Trevor Phipps and Jacqui Heaton are part of Project Rerewhakaaitu which involves farmers in the catchment working together to retain and enhance the lake’s water quality.

“Dad is passionate about the environment. He instilled in me that it’s often the little things you do slightly differently that can make a big difference and I’ve taken that on board in my current role.”

This season’s weather has been challenging on the Rotorua farm where Harry works.

“The wet 2018 spring was definitely one of the biggest challenges I have had to face. It rained almost every day and being short on feed pushed me far. I surrounded myself with positive people and with heaps of self-drive I was able to make it through.

“Feed management was a daunting task for me early on, and I knew I would have to step up. I’ve been very proud of the progress I have made in managing feed over the season.”

This is the first time Harry has entered the awards, which he saw as an opportunity to receive valuable feedback from industry experts.

“I’ve got heaps out of the experience, especially the networking and I saw entering as something to strive for and the extra motivation to work hard. I saw I had much to gain and nothing to lose by entering.”

It was also a chance to benchmark himself against others, says the 20-year-old who is proud to have been offered a herd manager role by his employers at the end of last season. “It was a great feeling to have been recognised by people who I have a lot of respect for. The role has given me the opportunity to grow into the farmer I am today.”

Harry’s goals include going contract milking within two seasons, buying some cows and in 10 years, to be 50/50 sharemilking.


BlackmanSpargo Rural Law Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Ben Purua

Rotorua Lakes Council Community & Industry Involvement Awards – Tessa Inskeep

BOP Regional Council Communication and Engagement Award – Bronte Marquet

T H Enterprises LTD Farming Knowledge Award, DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Harry Phipps