Looking after Dairy Women in the South

Dairy Women’s Network southern regional leader Shelli Mears checks on her rising one calves at home in Mokotua. Photo: Nicole Sharp
Dairy Women’s Network southern regional leader Shelli Mears checks on her rising one calves at home in Mokotua. Photo: Nicole Sharp
Mokotua woman Shelli Mears is most at home with her cows, but these days she wears another hat.

Mrs Mears is Dairy Women’s Network southern regional leader, tasked with oversight of an area covering everywhere from North Canterbury to the far south.

She has been in the position for seven months and was a member of the network for quite some time before that.

‘‘I’ve been a member since almost the beginning of the network,’’ she said.

Sharemilking with her husband Steve, the Mears had lived in various places around the country and wherever they had been, Mrs Mears had been a member.

‘‘I’ve always enjoyed being a part and have always got something out of it.’’

She got involved because the network was the first organisation targeted at women in dairying, which appealed to her, she said.

But what she loved the most about it was the people.

‘‘The heart of Dairy Women’s Network is our volunteer regional leaders. They are the lifeblood ... It’s also a really good way to meet other dairy farming ladies.’’

Mrs Mears’ position is about supporting the women in volunteer roles of regional leaders throughout the southern South Island.

‘‘I’m the behind-the-scenes person who supports them. They do all the hard work.’’

Nationwide there are 88 regional leaders, and Mrs Mears supports 30 of them.

‘‘They are the ladies on the front line, fronting to the members and running the events.’’

Mrs Mears had been in the dairy industry her entire life, from growing up in England to heading to New Zealand on her OE and meeting her husband Steve.

She had lived in New Zealand permanently since 1991 and the couple had spent most of their time sharemilking in Otago and Southland, she said.

Now entering their fourth season on their 320-cow farm at Mokotua, the pair’s passion is their cows.

When not wearing her Dairy Women’s Network hat, or in the cowshed putting cups on, she can be found showing her cows.

‘‘We’ve got a real passion for breeding.’’

Most of the Mears’ herd were purebred Friesians or Jerseys, but the odd crossbred made the cut.

In her Dairy Women’s Network position, she was one of the few managers still on the coal face, which allowed her to pass on feedback from the farm.

‘‘For instance, Dairy Women’s Network has been involved in the Mycoplasma bovis response and I’ve been able to give a sharemilker’s perspective.’’

Mrs Mears has taken over the position from Cathie Cotter, who had been in the role since it was established in 2013.

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