Words by Sheryl Haitana

Equity owners Aran and Sharleen Sealey love farming in the Bay of Plenty and their goal is to be able to buy their family farm to carry on as the next generation.
The couple were named the 2021 Bay of Plenty Share Farmers at the regional Dairy Industry Awards in April.
They are equity partners on Sharleen’s parents farm at Galatea milking 420 Jersey cross cows. Sharleen’s grandfather bought the farm and her parents Eric and Margaret Smith now own the 160ha.
“Our goal is to be able to own the farm we are raising our family on as third generation owners,” Sharleen says.
“Farming is an ideal place to raise our family and work alongside our family. We’re able to utilise our skills and hobbies to benefit the farm business.”
It is where Sharleen grew up and later met Aran who had moved into the community to work on a neighbouring dairy farm.
Aran didn’t grow up on a farm, but after he completed the Agriculture Academy at Te Awamutu College he got a job as a farm assistant when he finished school and instantly loved the work.
His sister was working in Galatea and got him a job dairying over there. After he moved to the small valley in the Bay of Plenty he bought Sharleen’s brother’s car,
which is how the couple met. “I was literally the boy next door,” Aran says.
Aran, 33, and Sharleen, 31, have been together ever since and have been married for 11 years. They have three children, Haven, 5, Ashlyn, 8 and Jayda, 10. Aran also has a son Joel, 15, from a previous relationship.
They have been farming on Sharleen’s family farm for 11 years, starting out as managers then contract milkers.
Three years ago they started a company with Sharleen’s parents to buy everything apart from the land and buildings. The couple are 50% equity owners in that
“We hope to buy more shares in the company, once we own that we want to start buying the land,” Aran says.
One of their strengths is how well they get on and work well alongside Eric to achieve their goals for the farm. Being able to work alongside family
strengthens the business unit.
“We are able to share goals. Forming our company is a huge success we are very proud of.”

Inspired by family history

They enjoy living in Galatea and Sharleen says they often think of her grandfather as inspiration during hard times.
“We think about what he did for our country at war and what he did for his community. We are grateful he chose our farm to raise his family.”
A lot of people in Galatea are on the same dairy farming buzz which also makes it a great area to farm, Aran says. It’s an ideal location, close to great hunting and fishing, which provides a
good lifestyle off the farm. The couple enjoy hunting, fishing and swimming and making sure they get a good work/life balance for themselves and their children.
“Galatea is a really nice community, there is a really good country school.”
Aran had previously entered the Dairy Industry Awards as a Dairy Trainee in 2013 and won the practical skills component for the Bay of Plenty. It was a few people in the farming community which gave them the nudge to enter the Dairy Industry Awards again as a couple.
“We’ve sort of been on autopilot for a while, and a lot of people in the valley were pushing us to do it, so we decided to do it just to shut them up really,” Aran jokes.
Entering as Share Farmers has certainly helped them improve their skill set and opened their eyes to look deeper into their business.
Aran says it’s made him more aware of the paperwork side of the business, which Sharleen normally takes care of.
“For me, sitting down to do more paperwork with her has been helpful. I normally do the feed budgets, but sitting down and doing the financial budgets and comparing the actuals with the target, has been a good learning experience.
“It’s pushed us from lots of angles. It’s given us a push to update our health and safety. We also tidied up our farm because we wanted to show a good operation, so we renovated our farm dairy and did a few things there.”
Aran and Sharleen both work full time on the farm, and typically employ one full time staff member with a casual relief milker on hand.
Aran and Sharleen have both studied through Primary ITO, Sharleen has finished Level 5 and Aran has completed Level 4.

Work/life balance

Challenges the couple have faced and overcome include learning about employer responsibilities and the juggle of work and family.
“Work/life balance is hugely important. We have a good team with different strengths that complement each other,” Sharleen says.
They see that they have an important role introducing staff to the dairy industry and they want to make sure it’s a positive experience for their staff.
The farm is a DairyNZ System 3 operation which is mostly self contained, so doesn’t have to rely on much bought-in feed. They have a grazier half an hour away for young stock.
“We are moving away from palm kernel, since they’ve started grading for it, there is too much to worry about, and we are also conscious about deforestation as well,” Aran says.
The farm backs onto Whirinaki River, which is part of their farm’s environmental plan.
“We’d like to clean up our side of the river and make it look nicer for the future. “We’ve started spraying broom up on a bank above the river flat paddock.”
The river flat is prone to flooding which makes it difficult to do much riparian planting.
However, the farm is well set up and they irrigate over 84ha of the farm. There is a 20ha block they grow maize and lucerne on, growing oats in between maize crops.
“Sharleen’s dad is really passionate about improving soil quality. He has turned a lot of the soil over with diggers. He bought a machine called a stabiliser to mix up the soil so the maize tap roots can go deeper.
“It’s worked well, last year we got 20t/ ha.”
The herd has been on the farm since the days of Sharleen’s grandfather and is in the top 5% for Breeding Worth for the country. It is a big focus of their business to look after the genetics for the business.
“We get to carry on the legacy,” he says.
Aran is the artificial insemination (AI) technician and they have just started with LIC’s sire proving scheme.
“We have a couple of contract cows they are interested in.”
This season they put Angus over any cow they knew they didn’t want to keep a replacement from to reduce their bobby calves.
“I’ve been told Jersey with an Angus cross is some of the best beef you can get.
“We will look more into that in the future, we want to reduce bobby numbers.”

Bay of Plenty Share Farmer Merit Awards:

DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Jordyn Crouch and Isaac Algar
Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Aran and Sharleen Sealey
Federated Farmers Leadership Award – Jordyn Crouch and Isaac Algar
Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – Aran and Sharleen Sealey
LIC Recording and Productivity Award – Aran and Sharleen Sealey
Meridian Farm Environment Award – Aran and Sharleen Sealey
Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award – Josh and Aleshia MacDonald
Westpac Business Performance Award – Jordyn Crouch and Isaac Algar