Ruth Hone - Dairy Trainee of 2014

April 2015

The first female New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year winner

Ruth Hone won the 2014 NZ dairy trainee of the year, the first woman to do so in the competition’s 25 year history.

Ruth, who comes from a Rotorua dairy farm, has always wanted to go dairying and hasn’t considered any other career. She says growing up on a dairy farm gave her a “solid grounding in the values of life”.  Choosing farming as a career, as her parents had done before her, seemed like a natural progression and Ruth says she’s just as passionate about dairying today as she was as a young girl.  She graduated from Massey University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Agriculture and has been dairying ever since and is currently working as second in charge on a 380 cow farm at Marotiri, Taupo.

In 2015 she and her partner are moving to a new farm where they will be 50/50 sharemilkers with 450 cows. “It’s really exciting, as it is just around the corner from where I am. Eventually we want to have our own farm. After three years on 450 cows, we hope to expand our business and then eventually have our own farm, and be at a stage where we could have a sharemilker and more flexibility.”

The Dairy Trainee of the Year award is the entry level competition in the dairy awards, and is based around the Primary ITO level three/four dairy production qualification. Anyone below the level of farm manager can enter. At the first stage of the competition, Ruth was interviewed for 15 minutes and then had a 15 minute practical. The next stage is to go to a farm where there is a 40 minute interview and 40 minutes of practical tests.

She won the Central Plateau regional final, and then went on to win the national final in early May 2014. “I wanted to win the competition, so I studied and read for a couple of months, relearning things I shouldn’t have forgotten. And I worked with a guy who had won it before.”

At the national competition Ruth had to complete eight technical modules which included tasks as diverse as doing platemeter calculations for feed budgets, fencing, health and safety questions, silage pit calculations, grass and weed species questions and changing blades on a mower.

“The interview segment included general knowledge questions, and questions on what message I would give to people about the competition and how you would promote the competition.”

“I was also asked where I was coming from and where I was going, and my future plans. Being able to put numbers behind those plans helped. They also looked at your leadership and if you are involved in things. They were looking for a well-rounded candidate.”

“It was like doing a district final for the Young Farmers, which I am also involved in, and I’ve done a couple of them. I would recommend the competition. It gets you to put yourself out there. It’s hard to talk about yourself.”

The sponsors were very generous too, and Ruth took home a total of $18,000 in prizes from winning the national competition.

After a couple of years sharemilking Ruth would like to compete in the sharemilker section of the dairy awards.

She is enthusiastic about the benefits of the awards: “It puts your name out there in front of future employers. And banks really like it too. They loved the fact that I had won and were all willing to back us which was great. It puts a bit of weight behind your name. The biggest thing was proving to myself that I could do it.”

“What I like about dairying is the progression which enables you to have your company and work for yourself. I also like the unpredictability of the work. Working with the weather and animals is really unpredictable. I enjoy working with the girls,” she says.

“You have to be a master of all trades: pastures and soils and fencing and water and cows.”

Anyone below the level of farm manager is eligible to enter the dairy trainee of the year award, and entries are free. This year 20 people have entered the Central Plateau competition.

Regional manager of the NZ Dairy Awards for the Central Plateau, John Butterworth originally entered the Dairy Awards as a sharemilker, and says the competition is a good tool for career progression. “It is about building a reputation, and banks start to notice you. All the people in the competition are like-minded, so it’s good to get talking to them, and it really inspires you.”

“The other thing I like about it is that the competition makes you go into every part of your business, and you have to cover off everything and get good at it. It gives you a bit of discipline. And it helps you stand out from the rest, which is helpful when there is so much competition for jobs. You need to stand out, so entering the Dairy Awards creates a point of difference. And there are good prizes too.”

“I am a 50/50 sharemilker for my parents and have 600 cows. I went into the sharemilker competition in 2012 and came second in the Central Plateau area, and the next year won. I then went to the nationals where I was runner-up Sharemilker Equity Farmer of the Year.”

“The Central Plateau area has done pretty well in the awards, with a couple of national winners and with Ruth winning dairy trainee last year. Most years someone at least wins a merit award.”

“It’s such a positive industry to be in, and if you put the time and effort in, you can really get ahead. I was a sheep and beef farmer and I saved money and bought some cows. This is my sixth season and I am 27, with 600 cows, 400 heifers, and I’ve just bought my own run-off of 64ha up the road and I also lease land.”

In 2015 the National Dairy Awards are being held at SkyCity in Auckland on the first weekend in May. Seating sells out for the competition within a day.