Elaine Fisher

The opportunities to more rapidly progress his career and herd ownership goals are among the reasons Jacob Maxwell left sheep and beef farming for dairying in 2019.

“I came back to dairying after about two and a half years because of the opportunities the industry offers for progression. I plan to own my own herd by my mid-30s and eventually own or lease a farm,” the 20-year-old who is 2020 Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee of the Year says.

Jacob grew up on his family’s 180-cow organic dairy farm at Taneatua, near Whakatane, and that’s where he worked for six months after leaving school halfway through year 13.

“I had already passed NCEA Level 3 and was happy with my decision to leave early. I knew I didn’t want to go to university. Ever since I can remember, I was going to be a farmer.”

Jacob took up a two-year cadetship on Waipaoa Station near Gisborne, then moved to its sister farm Te Hau Station for a further seven months. During his cadetship he completed Level 3 and 4 qualifications through EIT in Gisborne.

Jacob picked a pretty tough season to return to dairying with poor spring growth in 2019 and a summer drought in 2020. “That was a double whammy.”

But it hasn’t shaken his resolve to stick with dairying. Jacob, who is herd manager for share milkers Thomas Blackett and Stacey Lepper on Bill Scott’s 470-cow, 210-hectare, hill country property at Pukehina, considers one of his biggest successes this season was the good result from mating.

It was the first season of opting for an all AI option and also reducing the length of mating and the results were great.

“I was stoked with the result. This was the first year we had done all AI, and also the first mating I’ve ever been involved in and Thomas left it up to me to pick the cows.”

Managing the herd this season has been a challenge. “The farm is really dry, and the cows are not performing as well as they could but that’s to be expected. We have been feeding out silage and as much PK as we can without going out of grade. With calving due to begin on July 7, the decision was made to dry the cows off in mid-March.”

Jacob was inspired to enter the awards after his brother-in-law Matt Barr and sister Genna Maxwell won the 2019 BOP share farmer title.

“The judging process was not as much of a shock as I thought it would be. The judges made me feel very comfortable and the feedback from the first round gave me things to work on for the next. I’d encourage other young farmers to give it a go.”

Jacob is also keen to promote dairying and lift its profile as a career.

“Farmers are business owners and running a business of this size requires a lot of know-how and intelligence. As staff we have big responsibilities.

“I love working outdoors and with animals and delving into the science behind improving production through feeding and genetics. My bosses are very supportive of me and I couldn’t have asked for a better start in the industry.”

Question: Why is farm ownership among your long-term goals?

Answer: “I have always wanted to own my own bit of land and do with it as I choose, and also would love my future family to grow up as I did.”

Pongakawa farm assistant Dayna Rowe was the runner-up in the Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee of the year, and Nashi Floyd from Whakatane was placed third.

Dairy trainee merit awards:

The Business Results Group Ltd Farming Knowledge Award – Jacob Maxwell

King Farm Services Ltd Community & Industry Involvement Award – Dayna Rowe

Bay of Plenty DIA Communication & Engagement Award – Dayna Rowe

DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Jacob Maxwell