Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the New Zealand
Sharemilker of the Year competition. Southern Rural
Life catches up with the first Southland and Otago
regional winners. In this article, 1992 winner Tony Mcdonnell
reflects on the competition.
Tony and Sue McDonnell, of Clarendon, were the first
winners of the Otago regional Sharemilker of the Year
competition in 1992. Photo by the McDonnells.
When we won the Otago regional Sharemilker of the Year
competition in 1992 we were sharemilking on 100ha on the Taieri
Plains, milking 280 cows and producing what was then a record
59,000kg milk fat (just over 100,000kgMS today).
My parents were owners of the farm and at that time my father
had just bought a 180ha sheep farm at Clarendon and was
converting it to dairying.
We moved on to it two weeks after coming home from the finals
in Hamilton and have been here since.
We came home from the finals as runner-up and with the Tasman
Agriculture prize of best stock and pasture management.
We entered the sharemilking competition because there was a
concept in the dairy industry at that time that North Island
dairy management was streets ahead of its South Island
counterpart and we were determined to prove that was a
The key issue we were focused on then in the competition was
the per hectare milk fat production, and whether you were
nudging 600kg/ha. Any thoughts regarding the environment or
health and safety did not enter our heads.
At that stage we had been sharemilking for five years and we
felt the win was an endorsement of all the hard work we put
in and the results we started to achieve.
Before the competition we were probably regarded as nobodies
milking cows, but the success in the competition gave us an
immediate elevated status to farming leaders, and the media
at that time was keen to write about our farming policies and
people wanted to listen, regarding what we were doing and how
we were doing it.
In March 1992 I was presenting myself as a first-time entrant
in the sharemilking competition.
Exactly a year later I was part of the judging team, judging
the Southland sharemilking final.
I guess the competition helped drive me to be competitive and
to keep driving ahead and stay at the forefront of the dairy
industry practice. I hope I can say I achieved this.
Dairy farmers seem to be people who have the goal to beat the
previous year's production, year after year, and I think in
26 years of dairying there have only been three seasons in
which I have not achieved this.
Our involvement with the dairy industry awards continued in
1994, 1995 and 1996, as conveners of the Otago competition.
This was a huge job, doing everything from arranging
competitors, judges, sponsors and the awards evening.
We bought our first farm in 1996, then in 2000 bought the
run-off. In 2001 we expanded our dairy farm and in 2003
bought another run-off. We bought my mother's farm in 2005
and in 2012 bought Chrystalls Beach farm.
We have three children: Grant (24) who is at the YWAM (Youth
with a Mission) Mission School, Australia; Deli (22), who is
soon to be married, and Nadia (18), who has been accepted for
nursing next year.
With our latest addition at Chrystalls Beach, we have now
sold our Clarendon dairying operation and are using this
opportunity to sell our stock and stand back from the
day-to-day operation of running the farm.
Our sharemilker is moving to Chrystalls Beach to operate that
property and I will put my efforts into further developing
It will also give me the opportunity to be more involved in
church and mission work.
With 30 years' continuous work non-stop and approaching 50 I
am now going to do what I want to do, rather than always,
every day, having to do it.
We are building a house on our Titri run-off, overlooking the