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He had plenty to celebrate, as he was named the Southland-Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year.
''I was hoping to do well but I wasn't really expecting to win,'' Mr Lavender said. ''It came as a bit of a shock but I am stoked.''
This was Mr Lavender's second time entering the awards and he and partner Chantelle Ross were thrilled with the win.
''I want to thank my partner as I forgot to thank her on the night.''
He is 2IC on Martin and Kim Axtens' Winton farm, milking 800 cows. In his second season in the industry, he will be farm manager next season.
Second place went to Wyndham 2IC Ben Worker and third was Winton assistant, Jeremy Anderson. He also won the DairyNZ Practical Skills merit award.
Mr Lavender comes from a dairy-farming background and is preparing for the national judging and that includes making a three-minute DVD.
''When I started with Martin and Kim two years ago, my plan was to be 50/50 sharemilker in 10 years and own a farm in 20.''
He said he had read an article in 2011 in Southern Rural Life about the Axtens, who were moving to equity partnership and thought they would need staff, so he dropped off his CV.
''I have been working there for two years.
''I am passionate about the New Zealand dairy industry and all it has to offer.
''I am always striving to achieve my goals as well as doing what I can to ensure the positive image of the industry and that it will continue to provide opportunity to others with the passion and drive to make it a career.''
He is now studying the Primary ITO level 5 production management paper; before that, he studied at Lincoln University for his agricultural commerce degree.
- by Yvonne O'Hara