Being awarded a DairyNZ undergraduate and post graduate scholarship gave Kieran McCahon a significant head-start to his career in the dairy industry.

The 23-year-old is now working fulltime at DairyNZ as an animal and feed developer for the farm performance team.

His current role involves interpreting research data and developing this into key messages and resources that can be used by extension teams.

“I look at the research and ask what the potential implications are to a farm system, what resources can be developed and what information or support we can provide farmers.”

The DairyNZ undergraduate and post graduate scholarships Kieran was awarded, worth $6325 and $30,000 a year, gave invaluable financial support to allow him to focus on his studies.

“The monetary benefits of the scholarship are huge as a student, it takes away the financial burden, allowing you to focus on your academic workload.

“In addition to the financial support, DairyNZ has made a significant contribution to my career progression and personal development, providing regular mentoring, career advice, contacts within the industry and opportunities to explore potential careers.”

The Northland boy hails from his parents’ 1000-cow farm on the Pouto Peninsula, but growing up he wasn’t interested in a career within the dairy industry. He went to Dargaville High School before transferring to Westlake Boys’ High School in Auckland for his three senior years.

Kieran originally had aspirations of being an engineer, but when his sister Nikita studied at Lincoln his eyes started opening to the potential career opportunities in agriculture beyond milking cows.

He decided on a Bachelor of Agriculture Science at Massey University, where his parents had studied Agriculture Science and Science respectively. He then completed a Masters degree in Management, majoring in Agribusiness, through the University of Waikato.

He was based at DairyNZ headquarters in Newstead as part of his DairyNZ post-graduate scholarship.

“Being based at Newstead, I’ve been able to leverage off the wealth of knowledge that sits there. If I had a question, I could just lean over a divider and ask one of the experts in the room.”

The scholarships and job opportunities don’t all come down to grades, it’s about putting yourself out there and taking up opportunities, Kieran says.

“I invested a lot of time into my education and although I was a strong performer academically, it’s not solely academically based.

“Getting the job is not just about having the degree, it’s what else you have achieved on top of that, what you’ve been involved in within your community.

“There are countless opportunities for people with a strong work ethic and a positive attitude.”

During orientation week at Massey, Kieran signed up to Young Farmers and has been a member since, being involved in the committees, convening events, as well as competing in Young Farmer of the Year competitions.

Having a strong mentor to aspire to and ask for advice is also a good option for young people in the industry, he says.

Kieran has formed a good relationship with former Young Farmer of the Year David Kidd.

“It’s inspiring to watch someone else who is 10 years ahead of you progress through the industry.  Being able to get advice from them is huge.”

The future is still wide open for Kieran in terms of what role he moves into next. What he does know is he wants to contribute and give back to the industry.“The goal for me is in 30 years time to be able to look back and hang my hat on something – where I’ve had a positive and tangible influence on the industry. The industry has provided me with numerous opportunities early in my career and I would like to be able to give back”

Kieran’s thesis was on the BioPhysical, Environmental and Economics of removing imported supplementary feed. His analysis was based on data from the Northland Agricultural Research Farm.  Read more at