NZ Dairy Winter 2022

| 21 nzdairy DAIRY AWARDS » Kevin & Kyla Freeman First season a huge success for couple Karen Phelps Photos: West Coast Top of the South Share Farmers of the Year Kevin and Kyla Freeman with children Mylan, Levi and Cole. 2IC Jake (below) with one of the herd. First-time entrants and winners at the West Coast/Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards, Kevin and Kyla Freeman, took on their rst sharemilking position right in the middle of the pandemic. It was a time of great uncertainty but the couple managed to successfully navigate any unexpected issues that cropped up and tight budgeting paid off. They had budgeted on a payout of $6 and in reality the payout turned out to be much higher – $8.40. They had estimated production at 165,000 kgs/MS but achieved 175,000 meaning their rst season was a huge success. Kevin says it helped that the farm is owned by his parents Mark and Julie and he had grown up and worked on the farm previously as 2IC. This meant he could hit the ground running and reduced uncertainties in that respect and he also had the backing of family experience and expertise. Kevin and Kyla were also fortunate that they knew a year beforehand they would take on the sharemilking position so they could purchase empty cows to carry over and get them back in calf to build up their herd economically. The worker that was already on the farm stayed, which was another bonus with closed borders and a shortage of workers. The 140 hectare farm in Nelson milks 390 cows and Kevin says entering the awards helped them to examine every aspect of their business to analyse, learn and improve areas of weakness and identify areas of opportunities for growth. They won ve merit awards: DairyNZ – People and Culture, Federated Farmers Leadership, Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity, Meridian Environmental Sustainability and Cuffs Chartered Accountants & Business Advisors Business Performance. Kevin says one key takeaway was the importance of having good systems and procedures written down so that anybody could step onto the farm and run it. People are a highly valued part of their business and Kevin says that little demonstrations of appreciation really matter. “If we don’t look after the environment what will our children have? You can’t just keep passing the buck. Step up, take responsibility and embrace change to make things better.” “It could be just buying a staff member an ice cream on a hot day or noticing that they look tired and might need a sleep in tomorrow. We also like to have fun and competitions to see who can clean down the yard the fastest are not uncommon,” he says. Health and safety is part of this people- rst culture, with monthly meetings and a culture of responsibility. For example if someone sees a hazard they take a photo of it on their phone then text it so it is date and time stamped and it has to be dealt with. If a staff member happens to be working on farm alone they text the Freemans at the end of the day to let them know they got home safely. “At the end of the day we’re here to enjoy ourselves and make it home safely each day.” The Freemans are also keen to showcase to the public all the good things happening on dairy farms to help bridge the country-town divide. “We like to have an open farm gate policy, so anyone who would like to come here and take a look at how a farm works can,” says Kevin. Next they plan to work towards farm ownership and will start buying shares in the farm next season. They take a long term view of farming, protecting the land for the next generation, especially important as they have three children: Mylan (4), Levi (3) and Cole (10 months). Proud to support Kevin & Kyla Freeman