Canterbury/North Otago | Dairy Trainee of the Year

Less than a year into his dairy farming career and 25-year-old Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year winner Mattes Groenendijk is already fast tracking his progression.

On June 1, he will transition from dairy assistant at Ngai Tahu Farming to second in charge (2IC) on a 1200-cow Canterbury farm working for Richard Pearse and Susan Geddes – themselves former National Farm Manager of the Year award winners in 2013.

Mattes is originally from a dairy farm in Waikato and hopes to return to the family farming business sometime in the future.

He holds degrees from Massey University, a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and a Masters in Animal Science.

His Masters study looked at calf feeding in automatic feeding machines and was carried out in conjunction with AgResearch.

One of his findings was that, when fed with automatic milk feeders, calves can consume up to 12 litres of milk per calf over a 24-hour period. He also found feeding calves high volumes of milk didn’t result in a post weaning growth check when they were gradually weaned.

Mattes spent six months after graduating working for a company providing training and support for cow monitoring technology but is now working on getting as much practical farm experience as possible and is eager to learn about innovative techniques and technologies being used onfarm.

Mattes joined the large-scale dairy operator Ngai Tahu farming in time for this season and says like many other farms the properties he was working on felt the pressure of staff shortages exacerbated by Covid-19.

“I’ve worked on dairy farms before but never through calving so it was a pretty steep learning curve.”

He was one of six staff who worked across two farms over the calving period – one with 930 cows and the other 970 cows.

Both have 64-bail rotary farm dairies with in-shed feeding and ProTrack.

“I can’t imagine working at that scale without that kind of technology.

“I could be in the paddock and spot a cow that needed attention, put her number into the system and at the end of milking there she is, waiting for you.”

Mattes says he’s been exposed to a wide variety of jobs onfarm and learned a big range of skills in a short time.

The roster over spring is six days on and two days off with a five and two roster for the rest of the season.

“To be honest I don’t think I’d even look at a job with an 11 on, three off roster.”

He loves to get out into the outdoors, hunting and fishing and sees having a good balance between work and time off as essential to both productivity and wellbeing.

Mattes says entering the Dairy Industry Awards competition has been a great experience.

He didn’t really know what to expect but knew it would be a good challenge to set himself.

There’s plenty of support and advice available such as how to plan and set goals for the competition.

Goal setting proved to be a powerful tool and one he’s continuing to use.

His near-term goals are to progress up to farm manager level within three years and in the future bring his skills and knowledge back to the family farming business.

RUNNER UP in the Dairy Trainee category was 25-year-old Waimakariri Farm Assistant Kelly Poehls, Third place went to 24-year-old Farm Assistant Thomas Lilley from Coldstream.

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

TH Enterprises Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Grace Sutton

FMG Farming Knowledge Award – Mattes Groenendijk

Dairy Holdings Ltd Community and Industry Involvement Award – Alfonso Almonacid

Craigmore Communication and Engagement Award – Nikita Baker

DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Mattes Groenendijk