Michael and Susie Woodward, runners up in the Share Farmer of the Year category in the 2016 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA), know that riding the ups and downs of the dairy sector is part and parcel of the industry but the key is knowing what’s truly adding value to your business.
“This is not the time to take shortcuts,” Michael says.
The award-winning 50/50 Share Farmers are strong believers in constantly upskilling – both themselves and their staff. The Woodward’s have four full-time staff on board at the farm in Leeston on the Canterbury Plains completing a range of qualifications through Primary ITO, the industry training organisation for the dairy sector.
“We’re firm believers in continuing education. Training is crucial to ensure you don’t fall behind the times. We actively encourage our team to train, and we’re constantly upskilling ourselves,” Susie says.
“The most important thing is that the right decision is made the first time. There is a cost to training but without it, it could come at a large expense to the business,” Michael says. “I believe it’s easy to get the money back and for every dollar you invest in a person’s training – you receive a whole lot more in return.”
In terms of how the couple split their farm roles, Michael holds responsibility for staff engagement on farm, ensuring everything gets done. He also looks after staff training. Susie heads up accounts, payroll, HR and office admin, recruitment, legal requirements and on top of that health and safety requirements.
Hailing from the USA, Susie built up her skills through Primary ITO training. “I’ve competed Rural Staff Management through the ITO,” Susie says. “It gave me better information about how to make our recruitment and employment process fluid and fail safe. I gained the skills to help me select the best people for our team. We know our team dynamics, and as a result we have a cohesive team in place that helps the farm run like clockwork,” Susie says.
In terms of the positives of a dairy farming life, Michael explains “working in the dairy industry is a culmination of all our hard work.”
“We love working in the outdoors. I love animals and I just love cows. We enjoy getting the kids out on the farm and they’re involved in the family business, which is really special. The kids get to see Dad at lunchtime and see Mum and Dad together working as a team,” Susie explains.
In terms of the future, the couple are working towards their dream of farm ownership. “We’re farming orphans in the sense that we don’t have a family farm to go to. We would love to buy a smaller block and it’s all onwards and upwards from there.”
In the near future a goal the couple didn’t have in mind is coming to fruition. Michael and Susie recently filmed a piece for TV One’s Breakfast show that’s due to air in July. With TV stardom and the runner-up NZDIA Share Farmer title to their name, the future’s looking bright for this motivated couple.