Manawatu | Dairy Trainee of the Year

As well as taking the top title of 2021 Manawatu Dairy Trainee of the Year, Josh Wilkinson won all of the competition’s four merit awards.

“I entered last year and got ‘most promising’ but didn’t make the finals, so I was stoked to get through to the finals this year. Winning was a big achievement for me,” says Josh who is production manager on Ross Gordon’s 260ha, 500-cow farm, Pukewaiu, in Colyton. The 23-year-old won $5825 in prizes.

Josh puts his wins down to what he learnt from entering the 2020 awards. “The feedback from entering showed what I needed to work on. I then went on to complete the milk quality and food safety course to help fill in the gaps.”

Josh got an introduction to rural life when his family moved from Levin to a lifestyle block in Shannon. “That’s where I built up more of an interest in animals and plants.” He went on to gain a Bachelor of Agriscience, majoring in Agriculture, from Massey University.

“While studying at Massey we got practical experience on farms and my first placement was on the farm owned by the late John Wilson, previous chair of Fonterra in Te Awamutu. I learnt a lot from him and he inspired me to continue with dairy farming.”

Other placements included working on the 6500ha, Te Awaiti Station where Josh worked with contractors learning fencing skills, and beekeeping. He worked in Cambridge after leaving university but returned south to Santoft and then last season to the Pukewaiu farm as the second in charge (2IC), then gaining a promotion to production manager in February.

Next season Josh takes up a similar role at Dannevirke where he hopes to further his management and farming skills. “I enjoy learning new things and studying. I have done a module in human resources towards an agribusiness diploma which helped quite a lot with dealing with staff. This year I will do a Level 5 in production management and go back to the diploma studies next year.”

Josh also takes part in regular young farmer events and in 2020 was awarded the Fitzherbert Young Farmers participation cup. He enjoys attending DairyNZ discussion groups and hopes to attend Federated Farmers discussion groups to further his knowledge and increase his industry connections.

The development of the new technologies being incorporated into daily tasks, are improving farm efficiency says Josh.

Grazing decisions are also informed partly by technology, using Satellite Pasture and Cover Evaluation (SPACE) service from Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC).

“Being able to see what cover we have at a glance is really useful and saves time on this farm which has quite a lot of steep country as well as rolling to flat.”

The possible conversion of some parts of dairy farms to horticulture also excites Josh who enjoys growing plants and trees as a hobby.

“In the future, I can see more horticulture being used on dairy farms as a way of diversifying. I’m all for this as I really enjoy gardening and plants.”

Runner up is Farm Assistant Jai Spalding, placing second in the Dairy Trainee category. He works on Pāmu Farms 207ha, 650-cow Moutoa property. Jessica Bird was third in the Dairy Trainee category. She is Herd Manager on Hopkins Farming Group Ltd’s 650-cow, 245ha Kimbolton farm.

Dairy Trainee Merit Awards:

Manawatū DIA Farming Knowledge Award – Josh Wilkinson

Manawatū DIA Community and Industry Involvement Award – Josh Wilkinson

I.S Dam Lining Ltd Communication and Engagement Award – Josh Wilkinson

DairyNZ Practical Skills Award – Josh Wilkinson