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Mr McRae (30) claimed the title after winning the FMG-sponsored regional final at the Tokomairiro A&P Showgrounds and Milton Coronation Hall.
Eight finalists from throughout the region tackled a series of gruelling modules which challenged minds and bodies in the field during the round robin competition at the showgrounds.
Then they had to settle themselves down, collect their thoughts and master the fast-paced agri-knowledge quiz hosted by entertainer Te Radar.
This was Mr McRae's second attempt at the title.
"I thought I'd know a bit more about the contest, but then the organisers went and changed it," he said.
"It's been a fantastic day. I'd really like to thank my wife for motivating me to study in the lead-up to the event."
The national farming skills contest has had a major overhaul since marking its 50th anniversary in Invercargill last year.
"We're now showcasing all aspects of what it means to be a modern food producer," Te Radar told the 170-strong crowd at the Milton Coronation Hall.
In a butchery challenge, contestants had to create a rack of lamb, photograph it for a magazine, and develop an international marketing pitch.
Mr McRae's win netted him $12,000 worth of prizes, including a farm bike. He also picked up awards for highlighting food production and championing environmental best practice.
Before moving home to the family farm, Mr McRae spent three years working as a banker. The Wyndham Young Farmers member has a bachelor of commerce (agriculture) degree from Lincoln University.
His win has secured him a spot in the Young Farmer of the Year grand final in Hawke's Bay in July.
Roxburgh sheep and beef farmer Tom Blackmore (24) was second, and Riverton sharemilker Luke Templeton (30) was third.
- John Cosgrove