Sheryl Haitana

Kyle Brennan could be celebrating on a flight to Spain if he wins at the National Dairy Industry Awards being held at Wellington in May. Kyle and his partner Caitlin Close are going on a month’s holiday to Europe but Kyle pushed his flight out a few days so he could attend the Nationals week in Wellington and flies out after the awards evening.

The 25-year-old won 2019 Auckland/ Hauraki Dairy Manager of the Year along with $7825 in prizes and four merit awards.

Kyle has worked his way up from spraying weeds to managing a 950-cow System 5 operation for Balle Brothers at Mercer. Born in England, Kyle moved to New Zealand with his parents when he was six and lived on a dairy farm for a stint while he was growing up.

“Dad worked on a dairy farm for five years before he went into mining, so I got the feel for the environment.”

After school Kyle got his diving certificates but was going around in circles until a friend got him some part-time work on the Balle Brothers dairy farms.

“I knew what I wanted to do but I was getting into mischief. I knew I needed to get out of Huntly. I got a job spraying weeds over summer and then they needed help relief milking during autumn calving.”

Kyle was then offered a job as a farm assistant when he was 19 and he has continued to progress up the ladder within the company. Balle Brothers have since built two new farm dairies and have gone from 1400 cows to 2500 between three milking platforms.

Kyle manages one of the three dairy units, which has the oldest farm dairy, a 20-year-old rotary with no automation. Without cup removers it’s always a two-man shed and without other automation the team must be up to speed with good dairy hygiene. All staff are trained to pick up animal health issues from lameness through to mastitis, so Kyle was happy to win the Fonterra Dairy Management Award.Kyle manages five full-time staff on the farm, they also have a full-time tractor driver who works across the three dairy units, and he employs relief milkers every weekend.

“I constructed my own team, it took me two years to get it right. If you have one rotten apple it can make the whole bag rotten.”

Kyle won the Power Play Award for team management and says the team is the back bone for any large-scale farm to run properly.

The team run on an 11 on/three off roster with Kyle being an equal member on the roster.

“I’m a team leader, not a director. I work fully in the shed, I do all the jobs – you don’t know what’s going on unless you’re in the back paddock doing the hard jobs.

“As the experienced person you can stop and see if you can make a job easier or safer.”

Time off is important, and he makes sure each of his staff have a month off farm between December and May.

Kyle takes his team on a weekly farm drive to discuss pasture covers. It helps each staff member to think of the big picture and communicate, he says.

“They don’t just think about their own herd, they think of everyone as being on the same team, it’s a time they can ask questions and learn.”

Kyle is always keen to let staff take on responsibility and learn from the accountability that comes with it.

“I want to let my workers grow and that’s not just putting my jobs on to them – they make mistakes, and I make mistakes. I know it’s going to happen. It’s about not getting angry but using it as a learning opportunity.

“We work out why it happened and how to fix it – so it doesn’t happen for the rest of their career – not just here, but wherever they go from here.”

Kyle is in his second year as manager after a really challenging first season.

“It was one of the wettest seasons, we had inexperienced staff, and an inexperienced manager – it was tough but it was a good test to see if I was cut out for management.”

The farm has its challenges with balancing feed and Kyle was happy to win the merit award for feed management at the Dairy Industry Awards.

Balle Brothers own Mr Chips and have a combination of waste chips, onions and carrots that are fed to the cows 365 days a year which is a great source of supplement but doesn’t come without its challenges.

“We have had acidosis issues because of the chips and the cows having a high-starch diet. We’ve been working with Franklin vets on using acid buffers and fibre, and training staff to be aware of signs of acidosis. Cows can have subclinical symptoms that are affecting their milk production if they have a sore gut.”

Depending on the time of the year, Kyle is taking grass samples and grass silage samples to check protein levels.

“I aim for a 19-20% protein diet. We don’t feed any more than 4kg chips/cow/ day.”

Kyle also won the Livestock Management Award. He has placed a big emphasis on weighing and monitoring young stock since he has stepped up to manager, albeit it takes staff off farm.

“Young stock are weighed every six weeks from day one – it’s very time consuming, but if they’re not following their growth curve you can make changes and prevent things before they happen.”

Kyle met Caitlin through mutual friends and she is also working for Balle Brothers as a 2IC on one of the other dairy operations.

Kyle plans to study Level 5 Business Management through Primary ITO while Caitlin is completing the Diploma in Agri Business.

“We are always thinking about the end result with the both of us. I have to give credit to our company, they pay for all our training once we have passed. That support from them makes it easier for us.”

Looking ahead, Kyle and Caitlin would like to be contract milking on their path to farm ownership.

“We like the idea of having our own farm but we also want a family and large farm management is a reliable income and we get rostered days off. I do like the large scale here.

“We will definitely do our sums before we go contract milking. There is money to be made down south and we are open to going down there, but I’m committed to Balle Brothers. They’ve been so good to us and it’s such a growing business which is one of the reasons we want to stay on.”

Kyle first entered the Dairy Industry Awards in 2016 as a Dairy Trainee and enjoyed the networking element of the competition. The awards also helped highlight his skill base and knowledge and his plans for progression.

“I thought I knew what I was doing, but even this year I’ve learnt more about my farm, about myself and what I can work on.

“My financial understanding is a lot better, I’m stepping back and looking at the budget from a different point of view. To lock that down and know what I’m talking about, it makes me feel like I’m progressing.”

The awards have also helped Kyle to think outside the box and to think beyond cows and grass and consider environmental regulations and the best options for progression.


  • Auckland/Hauraki DIA Most Promising Entrant Award – Gemma Flavell
  • Nick Hoogeveen and Associates Employee Engagement Award – Alex Voysey
  • Franklin Vets Feed Management Award, Delaval Livestock Management Award,
  • Fonterra Dairy Management Award, PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Kyle Brennan
  • H R Fisken and Sons Leadership Award, Westpac Personal Planning Financial
  • Management Award – Toby Greenhalgh