Pursuing a career in the dairy industry

Dairy life
with Donna McKinley

My name is Donna McKinley, I’m 22-year-old keen farmer from the mighty Waikato. I’m delighted to have been offered the opportunity to write a monthly column on all things dairy, seasonal and industry challenges, and exciting events with Young Farmers, for Coast and Country News.

My love for working on the land was unknowingly imprinted in me from time spent growing up on a dairy farm as a young child. My family and I then moved to a six-acre lifestyle block in the Bay of Plenty where we had a menagerie of animals. Horses, cattle, sheep, ducks, goats – you name it, we had it. My older sister and I were home-schooled for most our schooling years which was really neat as we got to spend a lot of time looking after our animals.

Upon leaving school I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I’ve worked in cafes and bars, trained racehorses, relief-milked and all while studying to be a mechanic. I began an apprenticeship in an automotive workshop in Tauranga upon finishing my polytechnic course and at first I loved it, it was really exciting – but it wasn’t where I truly wanted to be. So I deliberated pursuing a career in the dairy industry.


I made one last career change in August 2015 to go work on a dairy farm near Taupo as a farm assistant. I’ve since worked my way through the ranks and now I’m an assistant manager on a 330-cow farm in Marotiri. I’m lucky enough to be have been offered the opportunity to manage a small dairy farm in Mangakino from June 1 – so I’m really excited to see where that can take me.

I’m chair of Tihoi Young Farmers Club and the Bay of Plenty Regional TB Free delegate. New Zealand Young Farmers clubs offer many fantastic networking and educational benefits which is why I was really keen to jump on the committee for our club and see what difference we can make in our community. We do a lot of fundraising for our club, which allows us to support our members attending or competing in events like the FMG Young Farmer of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards.

Last month I won the 2018 Central Plateau Dairy Trainee of the Year title and the T H Enterprises Ltd Farming Knowledge Award. To find out more about the awards and the field day I will be presenting at, see page 25.

GoodYarn workshop

It’s been fantastic watching the club grow into a real social hub in the past few months, evidently members are becoming more committed and want to be a part of this change.

Tihoi Young Farmers, alongside the Waikato Rural Support Trust, has organised a GoodYarn Workshop for our community, on April 10 from 6.30pm at Tirohanga Settlers Hall.

GoodYarn is a hands-on workshop to give people who live and work on the land practical tools and confidence to be able to talk to people in rural communities about mental health.

To register for the event, text or call Wanda on 021 180 2995 or email: rst.wanda@gmail.com

It will be very beneficial to hit this stigmatic issue front on and get our young generation really thinking about mental health, not only for themselves but for our peers too.


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