Winning the 2016 Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year Awards has been “an awesome experience” for Leighton and Nicola Swan.
“We have met so many people through entering at the regional level and then taking part in the nationals,” says Leighton, who with Nicola, is team leader for the dairy trainee section of the Central Plateau awards.
Central Plateau 2016 Dairy Award winners Olivia Wade, Karla and Ross Shaw and Leighton Swan.
For the couple, originally from Taranaki, entering the regional awards has been an excellent way to meet locals and get a feel for the community.
“Thanks to the awards we now have friends throughout the region and New Zealand, who we keep in touch with through social media.”
Helping run the dairy trainee section of the Central Plateau awards is also an inspiring experience. “The awards have attracted very motivated young people who are great to work with.”
Leighton, who has been in the industry for 16 years, has spent the last three seasons managing the 940-cow Mangakino farm owned by the Wairarapa Moana Incorporation. It’s the first time he’s farmed outside of Taranaki, his home region.
“A real strength at Wairarapa Moana is the support given, both in terms of professional development and mentoring. Mangakino is also a great community to be involved with personally.”
The last two seasons have been productive, largely thanks to the fact that 40 per cent of the farm Leighton manages is irrigated. “We’ve been fortunate to have irrigation, especially this summer.”
The scale of the property and the ability to move cows and feed between the Wairarapa Moana group of farms, to achieve the best result, is also a strength.
Entering the awards also brought a new focus to the couple’s long term plans. “The judging process challenged our goals going forward and helped us focus on our long term plans, including re-looking at farm ownership.”
However, Leighton says one of the many advantages of the dairy industry is it offers a number of options, including being in a salaried management position such as he currently enjoys.
Central plateau Regional Awards Dinner is on March 15 at the Energy Event Centre Rotorua. The Regional Winners’ Field Day is on March 29. The National Awards dinner is on May 6 at Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland.