Atarau farmer's surprise win

Published date14 April 2021
Publication titleWest Coast Farming Times, The
Sam Smithers is an unassuming fellow. When asked to move his hat for a photo (the brim throwing shadows across his face) he says "I'm a bit balding" before throwing it aside with theatrical flair and posing happily.

Sam has just been announced as the recipient of the title Young Dairy Trainee for the top of the south Dairy Awards but he rarely mentions it during the interview.

He grew up with his siblings Billy, Anna-May, Katie and father Robin, on the family farm at Stillwater.

Robin Smithers is a well-known figure on his own merit in the Grey Valley farming circles. Before the dairy boom he was the sole Artificial Breeding technician for the smattering of herds, and covered many a mile in his duties. Sam credits his father for instilling in him and his siblings a strong work ethic, something no training can do.

He says: "You think that, when you start, that getting a job on a farm is gonna be easy because you grew up on a farm. I learnt pretty quickly that there was a lot I didn't know!" A love of outdoors sees him snowboarding in winter and tramping year-round. Indeed, he attended the Dairy awards fresh from four days on the Kepler Track in Fiordland.

The awards

He entered the competition after firstly attending the previous awards dinner in support of his sister Anna May and "I saw what it was all about. I thought I could do well."

While some may expect some sibling rivalry, Sam says he and Anna May are "more collaborative than competitive", helping each other to success.

The clincher came after a conversation with Vanessa Watson of the Primary Industry Training Organisation, and she convinced him to sign up.

Going up against an initial field of 13, whittled down to six finalists, Sam was surprised to take out the top spot, hoping for a placing and "maybe a merit".

To his mother Barbara, apparently, "it was no surprise as she knew from the start I would win!".

Candidates had 15 minutes of practical assessment and 15 minutes of interview questions which included such staples as career development, and industry knowledge. Good general knowledge of farming practices and real-world applications for mathematics - such as calculating the percentage of empty cows - came into play, as the assessors gauged the candidate's abilities.

Naming the four bovine stomachs, reciting the components of grass and pasture and the eff ects of selenium deficiency were just some of the hurdles faced by the hopefuls

Sam says the award will "look good on a CV for sure," and as...

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