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He did not expect to come out on top but Hinds young farmer James Davidson (25) is this year's Aorangi challenger aiming to be New Zealand's top young farmer.
Mr Davidson, who is a dairy farm manager in Mayfield, was one of eight young farmers' club members who competed in Fairlie on Easter Monday to be selected to go to the ANZ Young Farmer Contest grand final in Christchurch in July.
He is the last of the country's seven grand finalists to be selected.
This was his first regional final and he last competed at district level in 2012.
He was ''quite shocked'' to win what was a ''difficult'' competition, he said. His aim had been to ''scope out'' the competition and learn from the experience.
''My goal was just to make it to the top four, so it was a definite surprise to win.''
He put his success down to his diverse range of farming experience and a Lincoln University education. He holds a bachelor of commerce degree in agriculture.
''A lot of the stuff you learn in university that you never thought you would use comes back to you.''
Mr Davidson also won the Agmardt Agri-business Challenge.
He is 2IC on a 1400-cow dairy farm in Darfield. Ultimately, he would like to own his own farm. He is developing a 70ha grazing and silage block at Glentunnel, which he bought recently.
The next couple of months would be busy with plenty of study and preparation. And he would be ''picking people's brains'' to build up his knowledge, he said.
Nigel Woodhead, of the Pendarves club, and Sam Bryan, of the Foothills club, were placed second and third respectively. Mr Woodhead won the Ravensdown Agri-skills Challenge.
Cole Harris, of the Milford-Clandeboye club, was fourth, Steven Smit, of the Glenavy-Waimate club, was fifth overall and won the Silver Fern Farms Agri-sports Challenge, and sixth placegetter Marshall Smith, of the Upper Waitaki club, won the Lincoln University Agri-growth Challenge.
Mr Davidson has won a prize pack worth more than $10,000 from ANZ, Lincoln University, Ravensdown, Agmardt, Silver Fern Farms, Honda, Husqvarna and Vodafone.
The grand final will begin on July 3 and regional winners will compete for the national title and more than $300,000 in prizes.
- by Ruth Grundy