Sheryl Haitana

Not passing judgement and giving people opportunities within the dairy industry can turn a person’s life around. It’s something Chance Church knows first-hand and something he is passionate about replicating.

The winner of the Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year is managing a 1250-cow farm for Richard Maxwell north of Taupo.

He won four Merit Awards on the finals night, including the Vetora BOP Employee Engagement Award and the Primary ITO Power Play Award for Team Management.

He has five fulltime staff and employs two casual workers during the busy time of the season. The team is a huge part of running a large farm, setting up good systems and building up a great team is essential to a successful operation, he says.

“The strength of Chance, is that no matter what a person looks like, their age, their background, Chance doesn’t judge them,” Racheal says.

Chance likes to employ local people with no experience who are keen and eager to work.

Chance and his wife Racheal see it as their role to encourage their staff to grow and progress in their own lives.

“I tell everyone to get a good person to work for, who wants to pull you up, not keep you back. A good employer to set you up and on a good path.”

Chance and Racheal get their staff to think about their future and help them with contacts to start thinking about equity growth.

Weekly meetings cover everything from health and safety to what’s going on at home. When you have five staff, you have five families and five different households to factor in.

“We think it’s important to know if there are issues at home, because we are all living on the farm together,” Racheal says.

When it comes to running the farming operation, staff are given respect, trust and autonomy.

“As a man, it’s better that you’re not feeling like a boy and getting told what to do all the time. I didn’t like being micro-managed. Their skills develop quicker if you give them that leeway.”

There is a fine line between giving them that leeway and letting them do what they want, but all staff can offer suggestions on farm systems.

“The key is to let everyone speak, leave the manager’s badge at the door – everyone gets an opinion.

“All the mistakes I’ve seen from past managers I wouldn’t do – that’s why I build a great culture with my staff.”

Chance and his wife Racheal, both 32, grew up in Wanganui and have five children together, Jade, 16, Cash, 12, Trey, 10, Wolf, 7, and Vada, 3.

They grew up together, started their family young and have been through their share of ups and downs, but have come out stronger on the other side.

Chance grew up working on drystock farms and always knew he would be happy to go farming, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that he truly realised the progression opportunities within the dairy industry.

After school he worked doing a bit of everything and ended up working as a farm assistant on a dairy farm.

“I loved the lifestyle, getting up and going to work and being able to go hunting and fishing.”

It’s such a great industry to get into and progress, he says.

“I’m lucky I met my wife and we have supported each other and we found a better way of life.”

He got a job as 3IC on a Landcorp farm at Reporoa and quickly progressed to 2IC the following season.

His manager Anthony and Danelle Kiff, runners up in the Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year in 2019 and third in Share Farmer category for 2020, have been great inspiration, he says.

“I learnt that if I knuckled down I would be able to get a manager’s role.”

He set about doing some Primary ITO courses and Landcorp offered a lot of great leadership skill building.

“It was a huge team full of knowledge. All the farms got together every quarter and all the 2ICs got together regularly.”

Chance entered the Dairy Industry Awards in 2017 as a 2IC and “failed miserably”. But it was also the motivation that made him want to improve and enter again when he had more experience.

It was out of his comfort zone to enter the competition, and it wasn’t easy to compete against competition of such high calibre and experience.

“I liked that the feedback was blunt and honest, it fired me up. It’s good to show you where you are and where you need to be.”

Two years later he got the job working for Richard and has been there for three seasons.

Racheal is chief calf-rearer and business manager, doing all personal business and financials.

In the last two years Chance and Racheal have bought six rental properties, one in Wanganui, and five in Tokoroa which they have renovated.

With a current equity of $400,000 they are continuing to build it through further property investment.

The couple aim to go sharemilking in 2021-22. Their long-term goal is to own a dairy farm near the coast and to continue to give their children a good foundation.

“My goal for them is to not have it as difficult as we had it. We’re not going to give it to them, we will teach them to work smarter and start early,” Chance says.

Chance also won the Fonterra Dairy Management Award and the Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award.

Runner-up in the Central Plateau Dairy Manager was Alexandra Lond, and Ashley Morgan was third.

Dairy Manager merit awards:

Vetora Bop Employee Engagement Award – Chance Church

I.S. Dam Lining Ltd Leadership Award – Ashley Morgan

Castlegate James NZ Feed Management Award – Alexandra Lond

Delaval Livestock Management Award – Alexandra Lond

Fonterra Dairy Management Award – Chance Church

PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Chance Church

Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award – Chance Church