Simon Adams, Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year

September 2008
26 year old Simon Adams and his partner Nicola Cocksedge have two children Jordan (5) and Olivia and (15 months).

When Simon left high school he spent six months at university and then started in the lab at Kiwi Dairy Co (now Fonterra). After three years testing milk powder he moved into manufacturing milk powder for two seasons including a spell as shift supervisor.

Nic and I thought we would like to go farming and considered doing that straight away but instead we took a year off and went overseas. I got paid to go over there and play rugby, says Simon.

It was a cheap way to go travelling and a good break before we started a new career. I played for a team in Manchester and they paid my airfares to go over and found us a house and a job, and I played for Tyldesley for 10 months. It was an awesome experience and we spent a lot of money travelling around but I will never regret it. Weve been there and done that and now I can focus on going forward in the dairy industry.

Back home in June 2006 he started Level 4 of Ag ITO training course on the recommendation of his brother who had done it.

The course fast tracked me through what I needed to know to be able to take on more responsibility on the farm. I went on to do Level 5 the season after, and that gave me a greater depth of knowledge. I really enjoyed the courses and took away heaps from them, he says.

Over that time he was managing the family farm, initially 65 ha of flat to rolling coastal country milking 160 cows through a 20-bale rotary. With the purchase of a neighbouring unit the total is now 130 ha, milking around 320 cows, mainly Friesians. A new cowshed is currently under construction. The property also supports 40 yearlings and they rear 70 to 80 replacements every year.

Simon was reluctant to enter the dairy trainee of the year competition but I was talked into it and ended up really enjoying it.

The interview process was scary but I gained a fair bit of confidence from it once I realised I could answer their questions, he says.

The prize included a study tour and that was bigger and better than I ever thought it was going to be. There were 10 or 11 trainees and it was great to meet like-minded people and the same sort of situation. We went down to Christchurch and did what is normally a five-day Future Farmers course in three days, so it was fairly full on, but we took away a lot of useful information.

For me it was an attitude change, not to focus on just one direction but think outside the square and follow lot of different options. It gave us all the motivation to stay flexible, and the knowledge that career progression in the dairy industry is quite possible and that we can get there a lot quicker than we think.

This season has seen Simon change from farm manager to lower-order sharemilker. Last season the farm produced 94,000 kgMS, and this year his aim is 110,000 kg as long as there isnt another drought. The key, he says, will be better pasture management not that he is any slouch when it comes to that subject.

When I first started the Ag ITO courses Dad said the pasture management side was mine to sort out. The knowledge I gained through the courses was awesome, says Simon.

"They also gave me the skills to manage pastures, soils and animal health, to be able to identify cows needing treatment and to know how to treat them and when to call the vet. Overall I gained the confidence to take on more responsibility and to run an efficient business."

Motivated by the Future Farmers course, Simon has made a start towards a future herd by buying a few animals. He and Nic plan to build their equity and assets towards 50% share milking and to be in full control of the day-to-day running of the farm. They are definitely in dairying for the long term.

I like working outdoors rather than inside in a factory. It's flexible, if I get sick of doing a job one day I can leave it for a day and go back to it later. It has a lot of variety, and I like it now that I have the opportunity to be my own boss, says Simon.

I have one staff member but I dont have the hassle of running a whole shift of staff like I did at Fonterra, and I like the lifestyle opportunities it gives me -- I can spend more time with my family and Ive still got time for sports and recreation.

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