Sheryl Haitana

Janamjot Singh Ghuman is appreciative that he was able to enter the Dairy Industry Awards on a work visa.

Winning the 2019 Bay of Plenty Dairy Manager competition will open doors for him and hopefully take him the final step to gaining residency in New Zealand, he says.

“I’m really thankful to them (for changing the visa criteria). It’s going to change my life. It’s given me more confidence and given me more certainty about being able to stay here.

“I’ve always known I have to do better all the time to get residency, knowing the industry supports me and that I’m doing a good job means a lot to me – I’m just so thankful to have been given this opportunity.”

Visa criteria for the Dairy Trainee and Dairy Manager categories changed for the 2019 competition, with entrants being eligible to enter as long as they held a valid NZ work visa at time of entry and at each stage of judging and have been employed full-time for two years on a NZ dairy farm. The 26-year-old is from north India, where he grew up on his parents’ farm where they predominately do cropping and farm buffalo.

Janamjot came to NZ when he was 19 and studied a Diploma in Applied Technology from the Waiariki Institute of Technology. Later he completed Level 4 and 5 Certificates in Agriculture.

Between his study he worked on a farm at Bennydale milking 1680 cows on the weekends for Donald and Kristen Watson, who were great teachers for his first onfarm experience.

“I would study for five days a week and then go out and milk the cows every weekend to help with my cash flow – it was hard work.”

When he finished study he got a job working for Steve Bailey at Te Puke, milking 360 cows.

He was employed as a dairy assistant, but two days before he started onfarm the manager quit so he worked on the farm by himself with relief staff and Steve guiding him.

“I had the book knowledge, but I hadn’t done the practical work. I wanted to work on a small farm to learn all the parts of the business. On the big farms you can end up just milking cows.”

Steve promoted him to feeding herd manager the following season and he stayed working on the farm for five years, working his way up to farm manager.

It was the perfect job to learn every aspect of farming and progress, but after five years Janamjot knew he needed a new challenge.

“I get bored – I’m a really curious person and I need to learn all the time. It’s really important to me.”

He spends a lot of time reading and his interests outside farming include science, economics and politics.

Science and technology will continue to shape the dairy industry and he hopes to be a part of that.

“I haven’t worked on a high-tech farm with a lot of automation, I would like to do that in the future.”

Janamjot won the Business Results Group Ltd Feed Management Award and the PrimaryITO Power Play Award – which he focused on technology and innovation.

“I talked about the past 50 years of farming and the changes technology has made, and what the next 50 years could look like.”

The changes farmers are having to make around safety and the environment have happened to other industries as well, he says.

“I think if we have to change we should change especially so the future generations otherwise they are not going to be able to farm.”

He works as farm manager for Rex and Lesley Brown on their 65-hectare Te Puke farm, milking 280 cows in a DairyNZ System 5 operation.

“They wanted someone who knew how to feed the cows. Steve’s farm was a System 5 too, so I had a lot of experience with high input. I enjoy System 5 – I’ve always been obsessed with energy. My favourite scientist is Nikola Tesla.

“I think in terms of energy. If I know what I’m feeding the cows I know what energy I’m giving them I know how much milk they are going to give me back.”

Janamjot is on target to be 16-20% ahead for the season, with the cows producing 510-520kg milksolids (MS)/cow.

“I like to work two to three months ahead and know what feed I have ahead and feed cows what they need.”

He feeds predominately maize silage, palm kernel, distillers grain, and pumpkins – which Janamjot used to feed on Steve Bailey’s farm.

“Pumpkins are the best source of starch – it’s more digestible for the cows and it’s higher in energy.”

Entering the Dairy Industry Awards this year has been a great process to network with more people in the community and the industry, he says.

“I came out on my own, I wasn’t born here so I don’t have many friends or know the farming community. This has given me the opportunity to go and talk to people and increase my network. It’s been really helpful on that level.”

Being able to get industry feedback on his performance and farming knowledge has also given him a boost of confidence.

“I’ve only ever had feedback from the farm owners which has been great, but I just thought I was doing okay. It’s also been great to have that high-class feedback from an industry level.”

Janamjot will apply for residency again in July and if he is successful, he will look at contract milking next season.

Janamjot is returning to India in January to get married and then he would like to return to NZ and get a position contract milking up to 1000 cows.

“That would be a great challenge, people like working with me and I would like a big team of people.

“It also has to be a sizable job to effect my equity growth. I would like to be able to progress to sharemilking and buy a farm by the time I’m 35.”

The beauty of not having any ties in the Bay of Plenty means he is open to moving anywhere in NZ depending on where the opportunities arise.

“I’m just looking for the growth. I would like to be debt-free in my 40s so I can focus on other things.”