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A lack of entries in the Otago regional competition of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards has forced a revamp of the contest format.
While a record 566 entries were received for the contest nationally, only three came from Otago in the sharemilker/equity farmer of the year, four in the farm manager of the year and 12 in the dairy trainee of the year.
In contrast, Canterbury-North Otago received 83 entries, including 40 in the dairy trainee contest.
The lack of Otago entrants has forced the awards executive to reconsider running a full competition in the region, which was ''quite gutting'', awards chairman Matthew Richards said yesterday.
Entrants in the sharemilker/equity farmer and farm manager contests would be assessed under normal judging conditions and a presentation made to the highest scoring entrant from each competition. However, they would not receive the Otago sharemilker/equity farmer of the year or Otago farm manager of the year titles and there would be no merit awards.
The Otago dairy trainee of the year competition would go ahead as normal, with the winner progressing to the national final in Wellington in May. Details were still being finalised for an Otago awards presentation on April 6.
It had been a tough decision, and while it was ''really disappointing'' for the entrants and frustrating for the organisers, it was important robust competitions were held in each region to maintain the integrity of the awards, Mr Richards said.
Otago had struggled with entries for a few years and, as they did not want to have the situation arise again, the awards executive would take some time and discuss options with local organisers, entrants and sponsors. One option was merging the region with Southland.
Mr Richards had met this year's Otago entrants and was ''blown away'' by the calibre. Most were first-time entrants and he believed it would be good for them to ''go through the process'', as they would still have another chance to enter next year.
Otago was the only region to have an issue with the number of entries this year.
''To be fair, Otago is a small region as far as sharemilkers and managers go,'' he said.