Chris Neill

Northland Dairy Manager of the Year 2019 winner, Lorraine Ferreira with her wife Lisa Avery and daughter Piper have found their niche in Northland. Leaving Canterbury wasn’t in their plan, but it’s an opportunity they are relishing after the adversity that stalled progression of their dairy farming business.

With a physical education degree from Otago and no job prospect, Lorraine morphed from fencer helping convert a family Canterbury sheep and cropping farm to dairy, to farm assistant then 2IC. This experience complemented by levels 4 and 5 with Primary ITO took Lorraine on to a farm manager position at Mayfield with 1200 cows on 300 irrigated hectares and managing three staff.

High milk price and opportunity encouraged Lorraine and Lisa to transfer their equity from livestock to plant and machinery for lower order sharemilking on a new conversion with 840 cows at Ashburton in 2015/16. Their dream tumbled with the milk price and snow added physical and financial challenge. After 12 months of giving it everything they left exhausted with debt and, for Lorraine, debilitating depression.

Recognising their resource was their knowledge and skill as dairy farmers, they decided recovery was in dairying. Lorraine took on a contract milking job with 1000 cows at Ashburton and Lisa worked off-farm for cash flow. A very busy calving helped Lorraine deal with her lack of motivation, as did support from Lisa, family and Rural Support Trust.

A holiday break to Northland started the next transition. Pip and David Howard “pushed” Lorraine to consider the Fonterra Farms Manager role, north of Whangarei. This led to interviews, a job offer, then leaving their Canterbury support network for this stable management role. Lorraine started the 2017/18 season as Fonterra Farms Manager, with the added attraction of a Northland fishing and diving lifestyle.

New farm, new baby and no family support made the first six months extremely busy. Building community and business networks, understanding corporate culture and expectations, learning about Northland and recognising shareholder expectations kept the pressure on.

“This farm and job are in the spotlight,” she says.

While accepting this, she prefers the supportive and practical advice of neighbour Geoff Crawford to the more common “indirect feedback”.

“Super sub” Lisa gives Lorraine a break with farm duties, as well as being full time mum and doing some off-farm work. Lorraine’s circle of trusted advisers includes brother-in-law Daniel Blair who “has a big influence on my business disciplines such as finance and organisation”.

His contribution is reflected in her winning the Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award, where judges stated she showed a superior approach to her self-management.

Lorraine clearly understood her financial position and what she needed  to do to improve it, they say, also remarking on her realistic goals with realistic time frames.

“She is taking the opportunity to up-skill herself by completing a diploma in agribusiness and was also mentoring others in the industry to up-skill them.”

Lorraine sees her role as physical and reputational guardian of a basket of responsibilities including; people, environment, compliance, shareholders and public perception, alongside managing daily operations.

While the role is demanding and different to most farm manager roles, Lorraine relishes being part of the Fonterra team. Lorraine describes Antony Hill (Upper North Island Operations Manager) and Wendy Burton (GM of Nutrient Management) as “phenomenally supportive, which flows through to the farm staff, with open and honest conversations in which we feel safe”.

Lorraine feels this job provides her time and support to deal with the past, build for the future, and contribute to Northland.

She also won the Mark Cromie Leadership Award for recognising there was a shortage of volunteer fire fighters in their area and joining the service and for running discussion groups on farm in an attempt to change the public perception of the dairy industry.

“She also recognises the importance that a mentor had in her development and has taken on the role of mentoring trainees in the industry.”

It’s an outstanding achievement to receive the coveted dairy manager award, when Fonterra farms primary driver is not milk production nor pasture control. Understanding the farm’s management comes from recognising their primary purpose which is supporting the Fonterra Kauri manufacturing site by sustainably receiving wastewater.

For milk to be processed, water and nutrients extracted from the milk need to be treated. This means irrigating wastewater on to the land which is maintained in the right condition and therefore zero pugging and zero compaction of soils, so for much of the year no machinery or portable electric fences are used where factory water is spray irrigated.

The decision of paddock irrigation is made by computer analysis based on hydraulic and nutrient loading, with grazing of paddocks often giving way to irrigation as the farm fulfils its primary function of receiving wastewater.

After irrigation there is a 10-day withholding period as a precaution against E. coli affecting dairy stock. The practical resolution of these factors are the large 400- cow wintering barns, the 1,000,000+ kg of baleage and silage sold off farm, and the volume of livestock sales.

Judges were impressed with Lorraine’s comprehensive 12-month planner identifying potential cow nutrient deficiencies at each point in the year, her animal health records and understanding of animal health treatments.

She is also very conscious of the public perception of animal welfare and makes a conscious effort to improve this, the judges noted when awarding her the DeLaval Livestock Management Award.

The farm’s key performance criteria isn’t something all production-focused farmers can handle.

For Lorraine it means being clear about expectations and leading the team.

She also won the Fonterra Dairy Management Award, because she demonstrated best practice onfarm and has a sound understanding of the dairy farm, explaining shed procedures to a high standard with an in depth knowledge of milk quality”.

Lorraine is developing her wellbeing, skills and confidence in a well-resourced and supported role, and aceing her Diploma of Business management with A+ grades while looking after one-year-old Piper.

Future farming goals for the 31-year-old include running a successful large-scale, multi-farm operation.


  • Whitelaw Weber Most Promising Entrant Award, PrimaryITO Power Play Award – Jared Sione Lauaki
  • Webb Ross McNab Kilpatrick Employee Engagement Award – Simon Robinson
  • Mark Cromie Motor Group Leadership Award, DeLaval Livestock Management Award, Fonterra Dairy Management Award, Westpac Personal Planning and Financial Management Award – Lorraine Ferreira
  • Pioneer Brand Products NZ Feed Management Award – Stuart McGregor