Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa | Dairy Trainee of the Year

Organic farming may become an increasingly important part of the New Zealand dairy industry in future, believes Tony Craig, the 2021 Hawkes Bay/Wairarapa Dairy Trainee of the Year.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot more organic dairy farms in future. Consumers around the world already see New Zealand as clean and green and if they could buy organic dairy products from us, that would be even better,” says the 20-year-old assistant manager on Shaun and Kirsty Rose’s 180ha, 400-cow organic farm at East Taratahi. As well as winning the top title, Tony won $5312 in prizes and two Merit Awards. While still learning about organic farm and animal management, Tony says his interest in the practices began when his parents Lyn and Ray Craig began the conversion of their Carterton dairy farm to organics in 2015. “Going to discussion groups with them and talking to a lot of organic farmers, it sounds like the way forward.”

Tony toyed with the idea of training as a mechanic or joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force and becoming a pilot, but in reality he says nothing could keep him away from dairy farming. “Growing up, my spare time after school and at weekends was spent onfarm helping my parents out.”

During his last years at college, Tony did a farming course which included two days a week with the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in Masterton going to different farms to learn of the opportunities agriculture offered.

For six months after leaving school Tony worked for his dad, Ray. “Dad has won a few farming awards and I learned a lot from him about organics and sustainable farming.”

His next role was on a Featherston property as a farm assistant and then the opportunity arose to work for his current employers as second in charge (2IC) on Roselea Farm. “I’m rostered for five days on and two days off which means time to catch up with friends and family and for hunting and fishing.”

While organic farming requires certified organic inputs, there’s no restriction on the use of technology and one tool Tony particularly enjoys using is Livestock Improvement Corporation’s (LIC) Satellite Pasture and Cover Evaluation (SPACE) service.

“I could do a pasture walk with a plate-meter every week which would take 4 to 5 hours out of the day but using SPACE takes about a minute. The satellite takes photos of the farm and different colours show how much grass cover we have, helping us make decisions about grazing.

“I’d like to see wide-spread use of the technological advancements onfarm; an improved public perception of the dairy industry and young people being educated about the industry and opportunities.

“I love that dairy farming is a job that doesn’t feel like work. It’s a career that feels like a lifestyle.”

Tony sees himself as a farmer who will implement and encourage change in the industry. “I’m really excited about the massive potential that technology has to keep improving and transforming the way farms operate, making them more efficient.”

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

Hawkes Bay/Wairarapa DIA Most Promising Entrant – Aliyah Wong

TFM Tractors Farming Knowledge Award – Tony Craig

T.H. Enterprises Ltd Community & Industry Involvement Award – Kiki Ritmeester

Irrigation Services Communication and Engagement Award – Kevin Liengme

DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Tony Craig