Jackie Harrigan

When Marshall Jane left school and put a Job Wanted advertisement on Fencepost he was offered a job with the first hit.

The Wanganui youngster was just seven days out from finishing Year 13 and started milking for Cameron Burke at Normanby a week after.

“It was like a gap week rather than a gap year.”

Relief milking through school and five years living and numerous holidays on his mum’s partner’s dairy farm impressed on him how much he enjoyed the farm life.

“I was like a sponge – I just soaked all the information up.”

And starting part-way through the season meant he was used to day-to-day working and match fit for spring time – “because it’s pretty different to relief milking – working in it every day really hits your energy levels”.

Three years later he placed first in the Taranaki Dairy Industry Awards dairy trainee competition.

It was his second go at the awards – the first time he placed second and was lucky enough to meet his next employers, Mel and Rob van den Brand, themselves DIA sharemilker winners.

He’s now working as a farm assistant on the van den Brands’ new 750-cow job on Christine Good’s 222-hectare property at coastal Otakeho. Ask 21-year-old Marshall what he likes about dairy farming and it’s hard for him to pinpoint a couple of things.

“I love calving, and seeing the new calves in the paddock, and I love night checks of the cows, and I love the breeding aspect – learning about the bulls we are mating the cows to, and I am really enjoying learning about pasture management in my new job.”

He has embraced a new role of shed manager – and is proud of the successful QCONZ shed inspection and has taken on the day-to-day feeding management of one of the herds.

“Rob asked me to focus on what they are getting in the paddock then talk to him about what they need on the feedpad.”

The pastures are supplemented with grass and maize silage, DDG, palm kernel and tapioca and mixing the ration in the new feed wagon is another new skill for Marshall.

“I love being outdoors and mucking in and getting my hands dirty – I love that every day is different.”

Now he has set his sights on getting to 2IC this season and off the back of the dairy awards has already had a goal-setting session with Rob, who Marshall credits with being a great mentor and encourager of his progress.

“He told me I need to work on positive management of staff (particularly when they are older) which I struggle with a bit.”

Suggesting things to the other staff member in an engaging way, explaining the why and being a bit more confident in the delivery are strategies Rob has encouraged Marshall to employ.

“He also wants me to challenge his thinking more with my ideas and different ways of doing things, which is a bit of a new thing for me.”

Medium-term goals include wanting to be a farm manager, contract milker or lower-order sharemilker.

Embracing the goal-setting mantra, Marshall has also been working on a personal goal to be playing in the premier grade for Southern Rugby Club and has been “hammering myself at the gym”.

He has really appreciated the give and take attitude of his bosses, allowing him to swap in and out of his 12 and two roster to play cricket every weekend for the local Division two Pihama Club. And the final goal is to get his head around starting to save some money – another thing Mel and Rob have helped him with – to realise how to progress and to save for that future.

“I understand now why I need to think about making goals and thinking of the future – they are such awesome bosses – they will help with anything you want to be.”


Bayleys Real Estate Taranaki Most Promising Entrant Award – Calum Black

Taranaki Veterinary Centre Farming Knowledge Award, DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Marshall Reweti Jane

Taranaki DIA Community and Industry Involvement Award – Kate Thomson

Staples Rodway Chartered Accountants Communication and Engagement Award – Sam Dodd