March will go down as a memorable month for Winton 50%
sharemilkers Steve Henderson and Tracy Heale.
Not only did they win the 2014 Southland Otago
sharemilker/equity farmer of the year title, but they also
Mr Henderson (27) and Ms Heale (28) met at Lincoln
University, where they completed agriculture degrees before
starting in the dairy industry in 2007.
Both came from farming backgrounds, with Mr Henderson brought
up on a dairy farm and Ms Heale on a sheep and beef farm in
the North Island.
It was ironic that the first people Ms Heale worked for were
Daniel and Emily Woolsey, who were the runners-up in the
At that time, Mr and Mrs Woolsey - now lower-order
sharemilkers in Gore - had won the national farm manager of
the year title.
Ms Heale and Mr Henderson later went contract milking and
they were now 50% sharemilking 320 cows for Adrian and Bev
Simmonds at Winton, targeting to produce
Ms Heale had no regrets about joining the dairy industry,
saying as long as she was working outdoors and among the
cows, there was no better job. Their ultimate goal was farm
It was the second time the couple had entered the New Zealand
Dairy Industry Awards and it had been a valuable exercise, Ms
''It makes you look at your business and it turns it inside
out, really,'' she said.
The couple were now looking forward to the national final in
Auckland on May 9. They hoped to do the region proud and be
the first Southland Otago winners of the national title.
The regions had been combined for the first time this year.
It has been an extremely busy time for the couple, who are
also very involved with their community as members of the
Winton Volunteer Fire Brigade, Waitane Young Farmers and the
Southern Field Days committee.
''We've haven't really made it easy for ourselves this last
month,'' Ms Heale laughed.
They had a ''full-on'' time prior to and also during the
Field Days and, two days after they ended, they had their
regional finals judging.
They were married last Friday on the farm and will host a
field day on the property on Thursday.
A honeymoon was on hold until winter ''when things have
calmed down a wee bit'', she said.
It was a clean sweep for Southland entrants, with Riversdale
farm manager Jared Crawford winning the farm manager title
and Winton 2IC Josh Lavender winning dairy trainee of the
Former professional rugby player Kevin O'Neill and his wife,
Sara, won the Canterbury North Otago sharemilker/equity
farmer of the year title.
The couple oversee an 1190-cow herd on a 340ha farm at Waiau.
Phillip Columbus, from Oxford, won the farm manager title,
while Isaac Vujcich, also from Oxford, won the dairy trainee