Christopher Vila started his career as a veterinarian in the Philippines but his transition to New Zealand agriculture a decade ago has earned one of the country’s top dairy awards.
Vila was named the Dairy Manager of the Year at this year’s New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, held in Hamilton on Saturday.
Vila has spent the past 13 years working in the New Zealand dairy industry, starting as a farm assistant in Reporoa, learning and accumulating knowledge.
He is now a farm manager on the JA BE Turnwald Family Trust 103.8ha farm, milking 341 cows in Ōhaupō, 20km south of Hamilton.
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He won just under $22,000 in prizes and also the DeLaval Livestock Management Merit Award.
Vila was the first person outside the Turnwald family to be employed to work on the family farm.
Judge Gray Beagley from DairyNZ said Vila worked on a farm surrounded by 50 houses and lifestyle blocks.
“Christopher cares about the neighbouring properties, and rather than spray for weeds, which risks killing urban plantings, he will pull weeds by hand near the boundary fences.
“His attention-to-detail is outstanding.”
The Dairy Trainee of the Year title was awarded to Ruth Connolly from Waikato.
Judges said Connolly stood out in the practical and was outstanding in the interview sections.
“Ruth is passionate about dairy farming and is constantly pushing for perfection,” judge Tony Finch from DairyNZ said.
Connolly won $9000 in prizes including a Honda XR 190 farm motorbike, along with the Federated Farmers Farming Knowledge Merit Award.
The judges described Connolly as articulate, considered and concise with a broad understanding of different industry issues.
“Ruth has a huge love and respect for the cows, the land and the people,” judge Nicky Allomes said.
“She will lead by example and will bring people into the industry.”
Connolly is farm assistant on the Rukuhia Holdings Ltd 259.6ha property at Ōhaupō, milking 800 cows.
Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj from Hawke’s Bay-Wairarapa were named the 2021 New Zealand Share Farmers of the Year.
Share Farmer head judge, Jacqui Groves from Westpac, said Kumar and Kamboj impressed with glowing reports from current and past employers and employees.
“They have amazing relationships with two sets of owners, who really believe in them and are following the boys’ dream.”
The judges were also impressed with their on-farm presentation, which used drone footage from their family farm in Northern India to explain their history and where they are from.
The brothers are 50/50 sharemilkers on Andrew and Monika Arbuthnott, Geoff Arends and Ester Romp’s 285ha, 460-cow Eketahuna property.
To win the national title and $50,000 in prizes, Kumar and Kamboj demonstrated strengths in leadership, health and farm safety, business and community engagement.
Waikato sharemilkers and equity partners Reuben and Deb Connolly were named runners-up in the Share Farmer of the Year competition.
The Connollys have been 50/50 sharemilkers and 20 per cent equity partners with John and Fiona Worsnop on Woolly Farm Ltd’s 110ha, 280-cow Ōtorohanga property for the past four seasons.
They won the LIC Recording and Productivity Merit Award and over $28,000 in prizes.
The judges noted that Reuben and Deb Connolly demonstrated real passion for their animals and had a strong focus on their herd breeding programme and the property’s environmental footprint.
Morrinsville farmer Jeff Bolstad was presented with the inaugural Lifetime Contribution Award.
The award was for Bolstad’s long service and contribution to the Dairy Industry Awards and the agriculture sector.
“We have chosen Jeff as he has been a bonding strength behind our organisation. He is a quiet achiever who has guided and mentored many entrants over the years,” said New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Trust Chairwoman Natasha Tere.
“He has been a guiding light, a father figure and confidante to many while on their awards journey.
“Jeff has a pure love and passion for aspiring dairy farmers.”
Bolstad is a former Federated Farmers’ Sharemilkers’ section chairman and New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Executive member.
Waikato farmers Pete Morgan and Ann Bouma were named the 2021 Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award winners and received the John Wilson Memorial Trophy.
The award recognised dairy farmers who demonstrate leadership in their approach to sustainability and who are respected by their fellow farmers and their community for their attitude and role in sustainable dairying.
Fonterra Chief Executive Miles Hurrell also recognised the other finalists for the award, Philip and Donna Cram and Chris and Desiree Giles.
“These farmers are driving positive change in our industry and are great role models, producing milk that is backed by the quality and sustainability credentials that customers now expect and need.
“People want to know that their milk is coming from farmers that care for the environment, animals, people and communities. Pete and Ann, along with the other finalists, are great examples of this in action.”
New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year: Winner – Christopher Vila, Waikato; Runner-up – Hayden Goodall, Bay of Plenty; Third – Diego Raul Gomez Salinas, Taranaki.
New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year: Winner – Manoj Kumar & Sumit Kamboj, Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa; Runner-Up – Reuben & Deb Connolly, Waikato; Third – Andrea & Blair Muggeridge, Central Plateau.
New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year: Winner – Ruth Connolly, Waikato; Runner-up – Dayna Rowe, Bay Of Plenty; Third – Mattes Groenendijk, Canterbury/North Otago.