Sheryl Haitana

Growing up in Porirua, Samantha McGiven’s knowledge of life on a dairy farm was non-existent, but she has taken up the mantle for the dairy industry since moving to the Waikato eight years ago.

The 26-year-old is passionate about giving back to the dairy industry, which plays such a significant role in New Zealand communities.

“I took on a Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) regional leader role because it was an opportunity to give back to the industry, which is a huge part of the community I live in.”

‘I chose to go into banking because I wanted to help farmers make their business more profitable. Allowing them to spend more time with their families and do the things they enjoy off-farm.’

Samantha attended a few DWN events and after reading more about the not-for-profit organisation she put her hand up to be a regional leader.

She shares the North East Waikato role to organise events in the region, which takes up about 10 hours of work a fortnight around each event.

The same week she became regional leader she also got asked to be part of the DWN conference committee.

“I had experience organising events so I put my hand up for that. It’s a six-monthly project, working alongside ladies in dairy from around the country. We catch up weekly and work together to bring the workshops and conference to life.”

DWN is an excellent platform to network with like-minded people who are passionate about the dairy industry, she says.

There are members who have been farming all their lives willing to answer questions and give advice, those that are new to the industry and want to learn more, along with access to a lot of rural professionals who are experts in their field.

“Coming from a non-farming background, the DWN network makes everyone feel welcome and included, it provided a space where I felt as though I could ask silly questions and gain the support from those with more experience.”

It’s great to see how DWN is keeping the passion for the dairy industry alive by telling positive stories, she says.

Samantha met her husband Michael water skiing at Lake Rotoiti when she was 14. The couple continued a long-distance relationship spending the summers together, with Samantha eventually moving up to the Waikato when she turned 18.

Michael had spent a gap year travelling after school before returning to manage his parents’ dairy farm at Matamata. When Samantha moved up the couple went contract milking on the farm for three years before buying in to be equity partners.

Samantha’s father owns McDonalds restaurants so she grew up understanding the consumer end of the supply chain. It’s great to have moved from being a user and a consumer of the end product, to producing the product, she says.

“The McDonalds restaurants purchase a lot of Fonterra products, and it is great to be able to, in essence, as Fonterra suppliers, supply the stores with products from our milk.

“It’s interesting to see the process from both sides, and I’m proud of our family story from paddock to plate.”

They are now milking 720 cows on a DairyNZ System 3 and this year they will also be milking 270 goats. The goat business is an opportunity for the dairy farm to diversify as well as a pathway for Samantha’s sister-in-law Nicole to come onfarm and utilise her goat-farming skills.

“It is great to have Nicole home and we are all looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us and our family farming operation”.

Samantha is the gofer, slotting in as relief milker, helping during herd tests and rearing the calves and kids, around her fulltime job as a rural account manager for ASB in Morrinsville.

When Samantha moved onfarm she realised a finance degree would offer her a career that added value to their farming business as well.

“Although my skills don’t naturally lie onfarm, this was a way I could still benefit our business.”

She has always had an interest in accounting so studied a Bachelor of Business, majoring in accounting, extramurally from Massey University.

“Studying extramurally was tough. I was working full time at a local accounting firm and part time on the farm, paying Michael’s bills and PAYE, hiring staff, and relief milking on the weekends. It took me five years (to get the degree), but it taught me a lot of lessons around self-discipline.

“It took a lot of juggling but it was so rewarding to get it all done.”

Samantha spent her first couple of years employed with an accounting firm where she learnt the backbones of a business, before stepping into a banking role as a teller and moving her way up in the rural lending team.

Sitting around the table doing farm budgets and setting financial goals for their own business made her realise that was the field where she wanted to work.

“I chose to go into banking because I wanted to help farmers make their business more profitable. Allowing them to spend more time with their families and do the things they enjoy off-farm. At the end of the day I want to be able to make a difference in the industry and help farmers live a more balanced lifestyle”

She now works full time as a rural account manager for ASB in the Morrinsville area, working with predominately dairy farming clients.