Chris Neill

The sea is never far away in Northland, but Pou Toto turned his back on it and commercial diving when he discovered his passion and future was in dairy farming.

A Hokianga boy raised in Kaikohe, his introduction to farming came while helping a mate cover a silage stack when he responded to a farmer looking for a relief milker. The experience was enough to encourage him to return to the Agriculture Academy at Northland College then head south to Telford where he completed his Certificate in Agriculture.

Returning to Northland, he found casual work which progressed to a permanent position as farm assistant with Terence and Suzanne Brocx at Okaihau. They are hugely supportive of staff and have been guides, mentors and tutors for Pou as he learns and progresses.

As a member of the Northland College Farm Committee, Suzanne is very proud that an ex-pupil of the Agriculture Academy is the Northland Dairy Trainee of the Year for 2020. She has a clear understanding of how challenging it can be for some of the young people in Kaikohe to recognise how they can find satisfying careers, and yet the primary sector in Northland is struggling to find the skilled people it needs.

While Pou was hesitant to enter the Dairy Industry Awards again for 2020 having previously been a regional finalist in 2018 and runner up dairy trainee in 2019. There is no doubt that he is delighted with the outcome and keen for other young people to recognise from his success that opportunities are available to them in dairying.

Pou has worked at Puketi Farms for three years and works across the companies two properties, the 171-hectare (effective) home farm with 450 cows and the 75ha (eff) Ohaewai farm with 200 cows. He enjoys all aspects of his role, particularly working with stock.

His motivation to “do things right” comes from the team he works with, providing for his partner and son, and the pleasure of doing the job. Judges recognised Pou’s practical ability when awarding him the DairyNZ Practical Skills Award. They noted in his citation “Poutama demonstrated a sound understanding of all practical tasks. We were impressed with his ability to communicate his actions, whilst completing the tasks. Judges were very impressed with his skillset and his confidence. Poutama, you have a very bright future in the dairy industry.”

Working toward developing the skill and confidence to progress to a farm manager role, Pou is continuing to study at Primary ITO. With pasture management completed he is now focusing on feeding cows, farm reports and feed budgeting with the support of his farm manager Abe Pomare, employers Suzanne and Terence plus the Primary ITO tutors. With their guidance he feels confident of achieving his goal of managing a farm in three or four years. While in no hurry to leave his current position, he recognises that he will need to step up to opportunities as they arise.

Runner-up in the Northland Dairy Trainee category was Reed Baker from Dargaville and Tipene Hape from Kaiwaka was third.

Dairy trainee merit awards:

  • Bryant Tractors 1983 Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Puoro Baker
  • Bell-Booth Ltd Farming Knowledge Award – Carmen Guy
  • Pacific Motor Group Community & Industry Involvement Award – Phoebe Simpson
  • Northland Fieldays Communication & Engagement Award – Reed Baker
  • DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Poutama Toto