Home' Otago Southland Farmer : August 24th 2012 Contents 10
INSPIRATIONAL RURAL WOMEN
From grazing to dairy: Omakau farmer Jan Manson has big plans for the future of her farming business.
Bank award payoff for hard work
Jan Manson plays a key role in her family's dairy grazing operation at Omakau, but now she's looking to the future. Diane Bishop reports.
Rabobank scheme a winner
Omakau farmer Jan Manson said the Rabobank Executive Development
Programme was worth every cent.
''I recommend the course to anyone who wants to invest in themselves or
in their business.
''We have no problem upgrading a tractor but when it comes to ourselves
its a different story -- think of it as human capital,'' she said.
Before attending the programme Jan and her husband Andrew were at a
crossroads, weighing up their options to either sell the property and exit
the industry or reposition themselves for future growth.
Jan was one of 29 leading primary producers in New Zealand and
Australia who were up for the award for best project.
The two Australian runners-up were Ash Wiese from Narrogin in Western
Australia whose project focused on his developing Quinoa business and
Matthew Ipsen from Wareek, Victoria, and his management principles for
the future growth of his sheep scanning business.
Jan Manson has feed
budgeting down to a fine
She knows exactly how
much crop or pasture
each of the 5000 dairy cows she
and husband Andrew graze
requires on a daily basis.
Winter is the busiest time of the
year on their farm at Omakau.
So when Jan told Andrew she was
heading to Sydney for seven days
from late July to early August, it
didn't exactly generate a positive
response from her husband.
''We were busy feeding cows and
starting to send them home so I
wasn't popular,'' Jan said.
But all was forgiven when she
returned home with the 2012
Rabobank Business Development
Award and $5000 cash for her
winning project on repositioning
their farming operation for future
In her project, she revealed her
and Andrew's plans to give up
large-scale dairy grazing and
convert part of their property into
a dairy unit milking 450 cows next
''It was about coming up with
'The Plan' for the future,'' she
Jan had always wanted to do the
Rabobank course, which is run
annually and spans two modules
held a year apart, but until
recently the timing hadn't been
''I wanted to gain a tertiary
qualification so it was either go to
University or do the Rabobank
Andrew, who was reluctant to
have his wife out of action for too
long, finally agreed to the latter.
Jan, 52, said the course imparted
the latest thinking in business
strategy and planning, leadership,
human resources, value chain
management and marketing to
drive their business forward.
''It was absolutely splendid.
was a huge confidence booster,''
The Mansons, who have four
adult children, have farmed at
Omakau for the past six years and
own and operate 380 hectares
while leasing a further 655ha in
Jan admits they were late starters
After returning from the Shetland
Islands in 1986, where she met and
married Andrew, the pair took up
various jobs before carving out a
career in farming.
They built up their operation by
leasing land in various locations
in the lower South Island, and
strategically selling and buying
They shifted from West Otago to
Omakau six years ago with the
aim of getting out of sheep
farming and establishing a beef
cattle herd, but ended up grazing
700 dairy cows in the first year,
increasing to 5000 cows from nine
Southland owners this year.
Jan believes the Central Otago
climate is ideal for wintering
''They (the cows) don't mind the
cold as long as they have
somewhere dry to stand.
''The wind and rain is the hardest
thing on cows,'' Jan said.
Grazing so many cows meant the
Mansons had to become particu-
larly skilled at feeding them over
the 11 to 12 weeks they were on
''Growing good brassica crops in
Central Otago has been a real
However, they appeared to have
mastered that with a fodder beet
crop yielding an average 30
tonnes per hectare this season.
Feed budgeting, planning the
rotations and doing the book
work is Jan's forte.
She focuses on feeding the cows,
which they run in 35 different
mobs, to the best of her ability and
they typically put weight on over
The Mansons have developed a
good system which they have
In this respect, they will miss
grazing cows but are looking
forward to the next step in their
farming career -- continuing the
dairy conversion process.
Most of the paddocks already
have water troughs and a 54-bale
rotary cowshed will soon be built.
''I've always admired the struc-
ture and opportunity in the dairy
industry for growth, but the
challenge is to do it well
environmentally,'' Jan says.
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