Sheryl Haitana

Auckland/Hauraki dairy manager Daniel Colgan is working on a large-scale farm where giving responsibility to his staff is a key part of building team culture.

Daniel is 2IC for Carl van Hallemond’s 316-hectare Mercer property milking 930 cows.

The farm has five fulltime staff and is one of three farm units, with 17 staff working on the 1000ha.

“Everyone just gets on well and we help each other to always do our best. Because it’s so smoothly run, there are never issues, as everything is organised and discussed properly.”

Upskilling and giving staff members autonomy is an important component of the staff team working well together, he says.

“All staff are taught the skills needed to undertake jobs on the farm. A lot of it is about giving people responsibility.”

On his farm, each farm assistant is given a herd to be in charge of, so the staff are involved in that herd’s performance.

“It gives people more buy in and they have a sense of pride and ownership – that’s their bit of the farm. At the end of the day they can go home and know they’ve had an influence on the farm’s production.”

The staff across the three farm units like to catchup and get off-farm and go paintballing or to the driving range.

“There is a real mateship.”

Daniel won four Merit Awards at the awards night, including the PrimaryITO Power Play Award for Farm Technology.

The farms use a lot of communication technology such as WhatsApp and RTs to communicate with staff.

WhatsApp is a great way to share what’s going on and what everyone is doing onfarm, from rosters to who has shifted the irrigator.

“The RTs are great because they’re always around your neck, you don’t have to worry about pulling your phone out and getting it muddy during calving and you can hear what is going on from everyone else.”

Daniel grew up on his parents’ dairy farm at Puni in Franklin. He was thinking about a plumbing trade during his last year of school, but his brother convinced him to give dairy farming a go.

After school, he went to Telford and studied a NZ Certificate in Agriculutre? For one year.

He worked on his parents’ farm for a season and then got a job as 2IC milking 300 cows at Maramarua before spending four seasons working for David Dean milking 600 cows at Mercer.

It is his third time lucky in the Dairy Industry Awards after he entered twice previously in the Dairy Trainee category.

“I’ve always had bosses who like to see their workers go in and do well,” he says.

“It’s such a good thing to put on your CV, employers look at you in a good light, that you’ve got an interest in dairy farming and have long-term goals.”

Daniel’s current manager Kyle Brennan won the Auckland/Hauraki Dairy Manager competition last year so he also encouraged Daniel to enter the Dairy Manager category.

The Dairy Manager category has also made Daniel delve into areas of the farming business that are not usually part of his everyday responsibilities.

He had to find out more about the farm’s fertiliser use, nutrient budgets and the herd records.

“I had to ask my boss for the farm’s nutrient tests and records, so it’s given me a better knowledge across different fertilisers used, grass species, and even herd records. I never knew a lot about BW and PW, but I know more now.

“I’ve asked my boss more about why they make the decisions they make, some of those decisions I don’t normally do as a 2IC.”

Daniel has completed PrimaryITO Certificate in Agriculture Level 4 and with the Primary ITO voucher he won through the competition he will do some Level 5 papers and broaden his knowledge further.

Daniel considers winning the awards as one of his biggest accomplishments.

“I worked exceptionally hard putting together the presentation and I learnt a lot through doing it.

“I’m also really proud I contributed to our farm having the best season on record and being 20% above the previous season.”

Daniel believes the awards process has helped him to become part of the dairy industry community.

“At the beginning of my dairy career, I struggled to maintain a life/work balance and work would take over. I’ve found that balance now and activities off-farm fit in well with my job.”

It’s also helped to build his confidence, from public speaking to increasing farm knowledge.

“I used to practice my presentation talking to myself, you feel like a bit of an idiot. But by the time you do it in front of the judges you’ve gotten over that.

“The process has definitely made be better at speaking in front of groups of people”

Daniel has looked at a couple of manager roles, but is currently happy where he is for another season. His ultimate goal is farm ownership, and the plan is to buy a dairy farm with his parents as an equity partner.

“I’d like to be an equity owner of my own farm so I want to upskill in all areas of dairy farming to help me achieve this goal.

“Hopefully my parents and I can buy a 300-400 cow farm in the Waikato in the next few years.”

He has owned a house for seven years and is currently looking for a second house to buy to build his equity.

“Winning has given me confidence to go out to the next step,” he says.

Dairy manager merit awards:

Nick Hoogeven & Associates Employee Engagement Award – Casey Meiklejohn

Campbell Tyson Ltd Leadership Award – Daniel Colgan

H R Fisken & Sons Feed Management Award – Daniel Colgan

Delaval Livestock Management Award – Casey Meiklejohn

Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Daniel Colgan

PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Daniel Colgan

Westpac Personal Planning & Financial Management Award – Casey Meiklejohn