By Sheryl Haitana

Hayden Purvis’s flatmates at Lincoln University used to tell him he would never make it as a dairy farmer because he couldn’t get out of bed before 8am.

However, the realisation of progression opportunities within the dairy industry appealed to Hayden and he now loves getting up and being out onfarm.

Hayden is farm manager for Peter Overdevest and Tania Akehurst on their 148-hectare Galatea farm, milking 400 cows. He had his first dairy farm job as a farm assistant for Pete and Tania when he entered the dairy industry, before coming back to work for them four years ago.

Hayden grew up in Christchurch around his family’s race horse business. Entering the horse racing business wasn’t for him but he knew he wanted to work around animals. He studied a Bachelor of Agriculture at Lincoln and thought he would pick whether to go dairying or into the sheep and beef industry.

“I enjoyed the sheep and beef jobs, but I thought the progression in that industry was going to be harder. Working on a dairy farm was an eye opener that it could be a great lifestyle and still have great opportunities.”

However, while he was in his last year at Lincoln, two family deaths in quick succession led him to leaving university with just two papers to finish.

“My one regret is not finishing my degree. But it was two big hits at once and I had a bit of anxiety and depression.”

Hayden is now studying Level 4 through PrimaryITO and will then complete Level 5 NZ Diploma in Primary Industry Business Management to ensure he has a qualification under his belt.

Insteading of returning to university he got a job as a farm assistant on a dairy farm in Taupo and the following year moved with his farm manager to a farm at Reporoa as 2IC.

He then returned to work for Pete and Tania as assistant farm manager before stepping up to manage their other farm. Pete and Tania offered Hayden and wife Deborah the opportunity to go contract milking on that farm, however, the couple were starting a family and didn’t feel the timing was right.

Hayden and Deborah now have two daughters, Lucy, 2, and Sophie, 1.

Hayden was elated to win the 2022 Bay of Plenty Dairy Manager this year, after four years entering and coming runner up in 2021.

Each year the competition has been an opportunity for him to network with people and challenge himself personally and professionally.

“It has been good for honing my skills and getting perspective from other people on how I can be a more well-rounded farmer.”

The competition has also given the couple the opportunity to look at their goals and what they want to achieve within the industry.

They are moving to Rukuhia in the Waikato this coming season to manage 800 cows. The couple are open to agricultural opportunities in the future, not necessarily dairy farm ownership, but something that can give them a good balance of progression and lifestyle to enjoy their family.

They would ideally like to own a small farm of their own, on which they can bring up their girls. They own 50% of an investment rental property in Taupo with Deboroah’s sister. Deborah also has a dog breeding and grooming business which she is hoping to expand with the move closer to town. Hayden can see himself heading down the Operations Manager pathway or even into consultancy or a governance role within the dairy industry.

“I am a people person, I chat to anybody. I aim to hold myself in a way that I can be proud of who I am.”

Hayden would also like to help encourage young people into the dairy industry and help the industry retain those people. He can see himself working in a mentor or leadership role.

“As an industry, we need to be better at keeping people. I want people to see it’s a worthwhile career and lifestyle. It’s not all about getting up at 4am.

“We need to keep a positive outlook, if people make a mistake you can’t put them down on it, you have to give constructive, positive criticism.

“Farmers also need to explain themselves in a way staff can understand. I learnt that from Deborah, I would tell her how to do something and she would say she didn’t understand what I meant – she had not been on a farm before.”

He says he has learnt from Pete and Tania that treating your staff well goes a long way.

“Their staff mean the world to them, they remember birthdays, they know about their families. I’m looking forward to being able to showcase what they’ve taught me with having more staff this year.”

Hayden won three merit awards, including the Livestock Management Award, Fonterra Dairy Management Award and the I.S Dam Lining Pasture & Feed Management Award.

Winning the DeLaval Livestock Management Award is a result of how they treat their cows with empathy and compassion, Hayden believes.

“Deborah and I always work with animals like we are being videoed, making sure we are kind and gentle.”

Pete and Tania’s cows are also a great herd full of top genetics to work with, he says.

The focus in the dairy shed is on doing the basics correctly every single day.

“We have a meticulous system to ensure we are checking everything. If you’re doing that there shouldn’t be a reason to get a grade. If there is an issue we resolve it as soon as it’s noticed.”

He was stoked to win the Pasture & Feed Award for the third year in a row because his passion is having well fed cows.

They do regular farm walks to measure pasture and after the balance date they pick 10 paddocks to measure grass cover and ensure they are hitting residual targets.