Karen Bellew, of Invercargill, and her former husband Steve
Malone, were the winners of the first and second Southland
regional Sharemilker of the Year competition in 1990 and
1991. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara.
Winning the first and second Southland regional
Sharemilker of the Year competitions and coming second by half
a point in the national competition was memorable and
disappointing for Karen Bellew and Stephen Malone.
The former Edendale 50/50 sharemilkers, who have since
separated, won the inaugural regional competition in 1990 but
it was held too late for them to compete in the national
However, they were allowed to enter the Southland event the
following year and won again.
This time they competed in the national final, finishing less
than half a point behind that year's winners Clem and
Patricia Captein, of Waikato.
Ms Bellew said to lose by such a small margin was
disappointing, although the national event was exciting.
They were in their second season at Edendale after moving
down from Northland, when Federated Farmers representative
Ray Sutton set up the Southland regional competition and
convinced them to enter.
''We decided to enter because of our competitive spirit and
we hit our straps when we moved to Southland,'' Ms Bellew
''We had done the hard work in Northland and when we moved
down here we saw that hard work was going to pay off.''
The inaugural regional final was held at the Ascot Hotel,
Invercargill, and attracted 11 entries.
They won $2000, plus $1000 in product from sponsors and as a
result became well-known.
Peter and Karen O'Brien, of Oporo, were second and Don and
Gwene Edgecombe, of Rimu, were third.
During their first winning season the couple milked 215 cows
on 82ha and produced 40,779kg milk fat, at 510kg a hectare.
Ms Bellew, a Southlander, moved to Northland after marrying
Mr Malone, where they began milking.
''After coming back to Southland for a wedding [in 1989] we
saw what we could do down here, so we applied for a job with
the Southland Dairy Co-operative,'' Ms Bellew said.
She said the competition's initial format had not changed
much through the years.
Judges Joyce Carmichael, Gail Wylie and Mike McGee visited
the properties and interviewed contestants extensively.
''The competition made us analyse our financial management
skills and we realised the things we were doing by instinct
were really sound farming practices,'' she said.
After their wins they went to the Mystery Creek fieldays to
promote dairying in Southland, were involved in the
competition's regional organisation and also donated trophies
for second and third placegetters. After the couple later
split up, Mr Malone moved to Timaru to milk and Ms Bellew
stayed in Southland, working for Hokonui Gold Radio, CRT and
She and partner Gary Tong - recently elected Mayor of
Southland - now own the Invercargill Kiwi Holiday Park.
She said the industry had changed considerably since then,
although the basic principles were the same - getting young
stock and grass management right.
''Farming is far more professional now [than then] as there
is such big money involved now.
''I think women have taken on a far greater, more hands-on
role than we could in the past,'' she said.