Waikato | Dairy Trainee of the Year

Breeding cows less prone to sunburn and promoting the dairy industry in a positive light are among the future aims of Ruth Connolly, the 2021 Waikato Dairy Trainee of the Year.

“I want to breed brown crossbred cows because I think, as global warming increasingly affects New Zealand, we will see more and more white cows getting sunburnt. For that reason, brown-skinned cows are I believe, the way to go.

“Here we put zinc cream on every sunburnt cow. It’s time-consuming but it is best for the cows. We have to think about the cows as they do all the work.”

Ruth (20), who is Farm Assistant on the Rukuhia Holdings Ltd 259.6ha property at Ohaupo, milking 800 cows, won $6700 in prizes and three merit awards.

“Ideally I’d aim to breed my own herd of J10 F8 because they demonstrate hybrid vigour, have the small frame of a Jersey so have less impact on the environment but produce the milk solids and volume of Friesians.”

Her future farming goals are specific and include being a herd-owning sharemilker within two years; having her herd BW in the top 10% and a daughter-proven bull in the LIC team.

“Ultimately, I will one day own a farm too.”

Ruth has already shown she has an eye for breeding potential. One of her biggest successes to date is a 59% conception rate in the bulling cows she picked for artificial insemination (AI). “It was a privilege to be allowed to pick the AI cows and it went really well.”

Ruth is a fourth-generation dairy farmer, but farming wasn’t always her first choice of career. “When I was 16, I wanted to be a registered nurse. Then at the end of Year 13 I was offered a relief milking job with Rukuhia Holdings which led to a full-time farm assistant position and here I am.

“I try to take every opportunity to grow. I saw the awards programme as an excellent way to not only improve my farming skills and knowledge but to build myself up personally as well. My twin sister entered last year and really encouraged me to enter as she has gained so much from the awards.

“Farming fits all my criteria: mathematical and scientific aspects, being outside, working with animals.”

Ruth is interested in regenerative farming and sees herself becoming an advocate for this and also for positive dairy farming.

“I feel we have a responsibility to give back to the land which works for us, so we need to look after it and need to consider the preservation of land for future generations,” she says.

“Rukuhia Holdings’ owners, the Glenn Family, are thoroughly supportive of the focus towards regenerative farming. Our pasture management includes taking cows off before they pug land and another key is making sure cows are fully fed and not hungry so they don’t walk around as much and create pasture damage.”

Ruth, who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a genuine passion for the dairy industry, attends church each Sunday and is a keen endurance runner, taking part in the Tough Guy Challenge each autumn.

Runner-up in the Dairy Trainee category was Annie Gill from Otorohanga and third place went to 2IC Sean Hayes who farms at Lichfield.

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

Trinity Lands Ltd Most Promising Entrant Award – Adrian Beattie

FarmRight Farming Knowledge Award – Ruth Connolly

Bluegrass Contracting Communication & Engagement Award – Ruth Connolly

Waikato Farmers Trust Community & Industry Involvement Award – Erica Gash

DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Ruth Connolly