Elaine Fisher

Emily Cooper’s thirst for farming knowledge means one of her favourite things to do is chat with older farmers at the Tirohanga Settlers Hall on a Friday night.

“They have so much knowledge they are willing to share, and we have such good conversations,” the 23-year-old 2020 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year says.

“There’s a great community here and every second Friday the hall opens for everyone to catch up.”

Further developing and improving her farming knowledge was also the reason she entered the dairy awards. “It was a way to contribute to my goals and ensure I’m on the right track, as I can use this experience in self-reflection as a tool for goal-setting.”

Emily is 2IC for Hayden and Narelle Hilhorst, milking 671 cows on their 262-hectare Atiamuri Farm. “I love working on this farm but am very excited to be going to the South Island with Hayden and Narelle to a 850-cow farm where I will be 2IC. We will have irrigation and a rotary shed. It’s such a wonderful opportunity but I will miss this farm and the community.”

Dairying wasn’t on Emily’s career list when she began studying at Massey University majoring in finance. “During the holidays, because I needed the coin, I began relief milking and calf-rearing for Mum and Dad and enjoyed it so much I decided to cross credit papers and do a Bachelor of Agri-commerce.”

Now her goals are to progress to contract milking and farm ownership.

“I know that means a lot of hard work and saving but what is life for if not to give it your all and work hard to achieve your goals?”

Tirohanga Valley and the farm Emily works on did not suffer as badly from the dry summer as other areas. “We have been pretty dry but Hayden my boss and farm consultant Mark Johnston have taught me so much about pasture management in these conditions.

“With a combination of Hayden and myself we had a good in-calf rate especially considering it was my first-time picking cows and the farm is reaching its production targets. In March we are still milking twice a day and the girls are looking good. We’ve fed out silage and 25 mm of rain in early-March helped green things up again.”

An unexpected challenge for Emily has been to her communication skills. “I thought I could communicate with anyone.” But working with staff for whom English is not their first language required Emily to re-think how she relayed important information.

“I have learnt to explain and adapt a different approach in my communication skills to ensure jobs are done onfarm in a safe and efficient manner.”

Drawing pictures, marking a map with an X for where cows have to go, modelling tasks and keeping calm all came into play. “The phone is a blessing, using Google to translate, but 12 months on I think all of our communications skills have improved dramatically.”

Question: What do you enjoy outside of farming?

Answer: “I enjoy walking and tramping and completed the Spirited Women – All Women’s Adventure Race in the South Island this year.”

Second in the Dairy Trainee category was Georgia Cairns, an assist dairy production manager at Reporoa and third was Shivpreet Arora, also from Reporoa.

Dairy trainee merit awards

Stretton & Co Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Rhys Prentice
T H Enterprises LTD Farming Knowledge Award – Georgia Cairns
Perrin Ag Consultants Ltd Community & Industry Involvement Awards – Shannon Wood
Rotorua Lakes Council Communication and Engagement Award – Shivpreet Arora
DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Ben Purua