Grateful to be part of dairy industry

Hannah Speakman is happily immersed in a dairy farming career in North Otago. PHOTO: ALPHAPIX.NZ ...
Hannah Speakman is happily immersed in a dairy farming career in North Otago. PHOTO: ALPHAPIX.NZ / AHUWHENUA TROPHY
At 18, Hannah Speakman moved south to chase a dream of pursuing a career in the dairy industry.

Three years later her hard work paid off when she was named a finalist in this year’s Ahuwhenua Young Maori Farmer award. The Ahuwhenua Trophy is awarded annually, alternating between dairy and sheep and beef, and now also horticulture.

Miss Speakman, 21, grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Elsthorpe, Hawke’s Bay, which was managed by her father, and that was where her passion for livestock began.

It was when her brother-in-law Laurence Walden, who is married to her sister Emma, won the 2019 Central Plateau Dairy Manager of the Year title in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards in 2019, that it got her thinking dairy was a path she could potentially follow.

She moved south in 2020 initially to work in shearing sheds but then decided to get a job in the dairy industry. She acknowledged she was "pretty green" about dairy farming. Her sister and brother-in-law gave her some advice about what to expect but that was the extent of her knowledge.

She worked on several properties before she began working for Scott and Megan Rowland in April 2022, as a farm assistant.

She is now 2IC for the Rowlands at Pine Hill Dairy, a fully irrigated 170ha 560-cow farm at Enfield, inland from Oamaru, owned by Craigmore.

She has spent the past two years developing her skills around feeding, pasture/grazing, animal health, maximising production, machinery, staff management and other aspects of a dairy farm. She is enrolled with Primary ITO and is studying livestock feed supply and demand.

She was full of praise for Mr and Mrs Rowland, saying she was not sure where her career would be now if it were not for them, or if she would even have one.

The couple had started their dairying business "from nothing" and were an example of the pathway of progression that could be followed. She likened them to family, saying "this is what you want to do for other people".

While she missed her own family, Miss Speakman said North Otago definitely now felt like "home". She was on the executive committee of the Five Forks Young Farmers Club, as TeenAg liaison and social media, and was enjoying playing in the local netball competition.

With a desire to eventually be self-employed, Miss Speakman’s own dream was to be a sharemilker or contract milker and she was keen to stay within the Craigmore operation, which has 21 milking platforms in the South Island.

She was inspired to enter the Ahuwhenua awards by her cousin Hannah Wallace, the first woman to win the Young Maori Farmer of the Year in 2015, in the sheep and beef category.

From there, Miss Speakman continued to follow the awards and its alumni, including the likes of Southland dairy farmer and social media personality Tangaroa Walker, the inaugural Young Māori Dairy Farmer of the Year winner. When she saw this year’s awards were for dairy farmers, she decided to apply.

She found the process and those involved to be very supportive — "all the people there want you do do well" — and while she admitted it was a little daunting, she felt very well supported.

"It stretched you in a good way", she said.

In fact, she believed it had been a life-changing experience, particularly the way she looked at herself in the industry.

The awards programme included a study tour.

"They uplift you to be a leader. Even if you think you’re small, you are the future of the industry. You just think it’s this small little thing you’re a part of but you’re part of a big industry. The things you do matter on a big scale", she said.

Miss Speakman, of Ngāti Kahungunu descent, was keen to show others that if she could do it, anyone could pursue a career in the dairy industry, no matter their gender, culture or background. She also wanted to potentially pursue other award and scholarship opportunities.

Strong friendships were formed through the Ahuwhenua process and while disappointed not to win, she said she could not help but be "so happy" for the dairy winner, Ben Purua, a farm manager at Waimakariri Lands Ltd, near Tirau.

sally.rae@odt.co.nz