Chris Neill

Colin and Isabella Beazley’s partnership started when they were 16 and continues to strengthen. Theirs is a love story of each other, family, community and their dairy business.

Highs and lows have helped develop focus on what is important, resilience to challenge, and joy in success. They share their journey with daughter Erin (7) and son Dayton (2) as well as their parents and extended family.

Like so many farmers who have come through Northland DIA, Colin and Isabella recognise the input of Miles Cowie who supported and encouraged them in their farming careers and Dairy Industry Awards entries.

The first time they had three weeks’ notice and weren’t prepared. Second time Isabella was fully occupied with Dayton who as a newborn was struggling to survive.

This time they were united, prepared and enthusiastic to prove themselves and delighted to be the 2019 Northland Share Farmer of the Year.

Reasons to appreciate GFC are few. For Colin and Isabella, it brought them to dairying when the careers they were studying for at university dissolved. Their best option was returning to Kaikohe and Colin contract fencing on the home farm which had been sold for dairy conversion. He progressed to farm assistant then within six months 2IC of a 1200-cow farm, a role which lasted two years.

Colin credits Merv Pinny with showing him the power of positivity, how to be a caring employer, and the realities of being in business.

He sees these learnings plus his university studies as the foundation for winning the Westpac Business Performance Award for which judges said “Colin and Isabella demonstrated superior business and financial management during their presentation. Judges were impressed by the level of understanding of their current financial position and where they are headed. Colin and Isabella have good systems in place to enable them to achieve a high standard of record keeping across all financial areas.”

A job offer “too good to turn down” took them to Titoki as herd manager of 450 cows for Kevin Brown in 2011/12, then on the same farm as farm manager for Dave Hodgson the following year. Grass management was a key focus along with their first experience of managing staff.

Hungry for success in 2013/14, when the farm milk price ran high and dairy was spectacular, Colin and Isabella took up a 50:50 sharemilking role with Norfolk Farms at Te Hana – 210 cows on 100 effective hectares, split calving (140 spring and 70 autumn) and low input with no financial pressure. They used cash flow to accumulate farm equipment and built a relationship with their bank.

The following year brought new realities. Their relationship with Sandra Topp at Rabobank became very important. Budgets with sensitivity analysis became and remain critical to business decisions. Driving farm expenses to an absolute minimum at $1.40, focus on grass farming and gathering information from local and experienced farmers were critical elements of survival.

Neighbour Greg McCracken’s contribution to DairyNZ “Tactics for Tight Times” was a catalyst for achieving this. Counter to wellbeing messages, working 24/7 and staying onfarm became part of economic survival.

Colin now regrets missing his daughter’s early years which he saw through pictures rather than being present. The experience clarified industry volatility for Isabella and Colin, the critical element of grass farming, and how to manage under financial pressure. Recognising the importance to them of spending time in family activities and contributing to their community has seen an adjustment of their drive for financial reward to a business aligned with their values.

As the financial pressure lifted in 2015/16, their son Dayton was born and within days his critical health issues threatened his survival. Balancing work and family revolved around time spent at Starship. At the same time their business was ready and had the opportunity to grow.

Farm owners Neil and Wendy Jones offered them the 50:50 job on their larger farm next door with 350 cows on a 143ha platform. The shift was done by family and friends while Isabella was at the hospital with Dayton. A physically and emotionally challenging time, but successful in getting everything safely relocated. Starting with a herd of 350 cows, increased by replacements, carryovers and purchases they headed in to 50% autumn, 50% spring calving.

The new farm for 2016/17 meant employing staff. With Colin needing to spend time with Isabella and the children, they decided to engage someone with the skill and experience to operate the farm in their absence. There is a financial cost, but the business benefits include; access to knowledge and skills they didn’t have, key person cover, a reliable and safe pair of hands when they are absent, work consistently done to a high standard, and no need for finding relief milkers.

For Colin and Isabella the real win is having time as a family without being concerned about the farm. It has also given Colin and Isabella time and energy to work on their business as well as in it. Judges’ comments for their LIC Recording and Productivity Award: “Colin & Isabella showed pride in their cows. They have clear goals in regards to development of their herd and a sound understanding of animal welfare. Herd records were easily understood and it was clear how the records were used to make herd management decisions” also represent the focus they have achieved in other aspects of their business.

Business consolidation through 2017/18 also prepared them for the DIA competition. With family and business settling they were able to focus on systems and policies. In awarding them the Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award, judges noted “they take the safety of any person who enters the farm seriously. Personal protection equipment and hazard register was available to all parties. Colin and Isabella’s attention to theirs and staff’s wellbeing was at the forefront of their presentation.”

Their fourth merit award, the Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award was special for them given Miles Cowie’s contribution. Judges recognised “the age of their cowshed is no barrier. The shed was kept clean to a high standard and judges have no doubt that if they turned up on any given day the shed would be of the same quality. Colin and Isabella have developed a superior system for identifying areas susceptible for grades which allows them to quickly identify hotspots should they get an alert.”

Along with the challenge and reward of their DIA win, their business is preparing to take its next step. Their farm owner is buying a neighbouring property and expanding the farm to a 283ha platform for them to run 550 cows and 80 head of young stock. This means finding another 250 cows that fit their plan of breeding a herd of low N cows. Their bank relationship now comes into its own, and having their experienced farm team is critical to keeping the business on track through these distractions.

Heading toward next season with positivity, they have a clear five-year plan of making the most of this sharemilking opportunity while committing time to family and community. The enlarged business will require two staff and for at least the first year they will keep a very experienced member on the team. Colin will do the fencing on the additional land to acknowledge the contribution Neil and Wendy have made to their business.

Colin and Isabella will continue to bring new ideas into their business such as Ipads for recording animal issues and performance, pasture cover and grazing plans, and communicating to alert everyone in the business of issues and costs.

A drone has been added to the farm equipment and apart from delivering coffee onfarm to Colin’s father, is used to monitor the springers, check fertiliser distribution and check pasture cover across whole paddocks. This couple enjoy the teamwork of farming. While Colin fronts the cows, grass and crop planning, Isabella “keeps him on his toes” and stays fully informed of what is programmed. Isabella maintains focus on matters involving compliance.

In Colin and Isabella’s view, the dairy industry has exciting opportunities such as long-term solutions to environmental impact and creating products with unique selling points. This connects with understanding customers’ wants and responding to their expectations. They are looking for more technology to control costs and maintain production, and expect it to be focused on pasture inputs to increase grass production. Keeping up is an imperative to avoid having to catch up.

This close couple are great ambassadors for dairying and Northland. They appreciate the community that embraces and supports them. Colin and Isabella choose to be “role models for our children so they become worthy contributors to our community”.

The challenges they have faced have tested and proved them to say “there is no financial figure that shows the value of relationships”. They live this each day with their family, community and business.


  • DairyNZ Human Resources Award, Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Charlie and Emma Adair
  • Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award, Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award, LIC Recording and Productivity Award, Westpac Business Performance Award – Colin and Isabella Beazley
  • Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Matthew and Kortne Snedden
  • Meridian Farm Environment Award – Jared Dean