Taking a stake in the future

1 May 2020

Photo: NZDIA image of Matt Thomas and Sophie Parker

DairyNZ’s levy vote is open to sharemilkers, and among those having their say this month are Taranaki couple Matt Thomas and Sophie Parker.

Matt and Sophie are at the end of their third season 50:50 sharemilking on Matt’s grandparents’ farm at Oakura, south- west of New Plymouth. The couple, Matt a former large animal vet and Sophie a former dairy consulting officer, have been farming for just five years.

In 2019, as first-time entrants, they were runners up in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards’ (NZDIA) Taranaki Share Farmer of the Year category.

Matt says they probably had a romantic notion as to what farming life was like but thought doing their own thing would be fun and a bit of an adventure. Entering the NZDIA was a way to analyse their business and take stock.

“When you’re a vet or a consulting officer, you’re often giving advice to people on your area of expertise, and this is   just one area of their business. Sometimes it’s implemented and sometimes it’s not. Once we started farming, we realised how

complex and time-constrained farming is and how challenging it is to get all areas of your farming business firing on all cylinders.

“Sophie and I had this passion for farming and we wanted  to put everything we knew into practice. We’ve enjoyed the challenge of bringing all parts of a farming operation together to achieve a good result and see our animals healthy and performing well.”

While Matt and Sophie regularly tapped into DairyNZ resources in their former careers, they rely on them even more so now.

They’ve done a Biz Grow course, which helped them to hone their financial management skills. They are both InCalf-trained, belong to the Dairy Environment Leaders network and are regulars at local DairyNZ discussion groups.

The couple recently employed farm assistant Logan Stevenson, and Sophie says the DairyNZ Human Resources (HR) toolkit was invaluable in helping them with their decision-making process.

“We went to the DairyNZ website to find out where to  start. The HR information covers everything from your legal responsibilities and the questions to ask applicants, to how to check references, employment protocols and the orientation process. We found it really useful.

“We’ve also referred Logan to resources like the Facts & Figures booklet and body condition score information, which have been helpful for him too,” says Sophie.

She says farmers often utilise local discussion groups, but some don’t realise that DairyNZ’s breadth of work extends far greater than these groups.

“When you dig a bit deeper, there are many resources, courses and events that cater for areas of your business where you need more information, but also the areas of your business that you’re most interested in. We also find

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