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Pirongia’s Kirwyn Ellis named 2024 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year

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The 2024 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year, Kirwyn Ellis. Photo / NZ Dairy Industry Awards

Pirongia’s Kirwyn Ellis is the winner of the 2024 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year at the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

The awards were announced at a gala dinner held at Coronet Peak on Saturday night in front of more than 470 people.

Ellis said he was “incredibly proud” of the win.

“To be recognised among such an amazing group of regional winners makes it all the more special.

“I’ve had a lot of people play a role in my career and development to date so it was very special to be able to share this with them.

“I have such a deep passion and love for the dairy industry and I’m determined to be a positive part of the industry’s bright future.”

Ellis was described by the judges as a relaxed, thoughtful and mature young man who “soaks up knowledge like a sponge” from those around him.

The dairy trainee judges said he genuinely cares for those in the community around him and took his role as kaitiakitanga very seriously.

“Kirwyn has soaked up all the knowledge from those around him and now wants to follow that up with some formal qualifications from PrimaryITO,” Manawatū-based judge Johanna Wood said.

“He felt it was important to have the practical understanding before he learnt the theoretical.”

Head judge Mark Laurence (DairyNZ) said Ellis was a strong team player and his heart was with his community.

“He was a consistent top achiever across all categories and I’ve got no doubt he will represent the industry very well with his new title.”

The judges noted Ellis was a methodical thinker and could articulate effectively.

“He has the ability to communicate with others very clearly, both receiving information and passing it on.”

Ellis is herd manager for Hamish and Sheree Germann on their 130-hectare property at Pirongia, milking 475 cows.

“He’s got a very good work-life balance and is into biking and rugby and lots of other outdoor activities,” Rakaia-based judge Enda Hawe said.

“He has very supportive owners that give him the time off to do these activities.”

Ellis won the Federated Farmers General Farming Knowledge Award, the DeLaval Community and Industry Involvement Award and the Craigmore Farms Best Video Award, along with nearly $12,000 in prizes.

The judges said it was obvious he was a down-to-earth farmer who genuinely cared for everyone around him.

“He’s got pride in the industry and he makes you have pride in the industry,” Hawe said.

“He’s a very good role model for the industry. He stood out clearly among a group of excellent finalists.”

Other Waikato farmers to do well included Logan and Sian Dawson, runners-up in the Share Farmer of the Year competition, and Tīrau-based Ben Purua for the DairyNZ People & Leadership Award.

The judges described the Dawsons as change makers, continuously looking for more efficient and accurate ways to do things.

They are equity partners and 50/50 sharemilkers for Jim and Sue van der Poel on their 333ha, 1350-cow farm.

They won two merit awards – the Federated Farmers Leadership Award and the Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity Award – and more than $28,000 in total prizes.

The judges were impressed by Logan’s development of spreadsheets and processes that were used across other farms in the business and his use of GPS on feed bins, which is monitored daily.

“Logan and Sian are on a large-scale, high-input system-5 farm and are guiding a lot of people, adding another level of complexity,” judge Steve Canton of DairyNZ said.

“Through the use of technology and careful monitoring, they are really getting the most out of what they do.”

Jesse Wood is a multimedia journalist based in Te Awamutu. He joined the Te Awamutu Courier and NZME in 2020.

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