Grabbing the bull by the horns.
First time competitor Dale McAlwee is preparing to compete in this year’s FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Christchurch. It’s a huge year for the farmer who is also taking on his first contract milking position just a month before the finals.
Lincoln University alumni Dale McAlwee is having a whirlwind of a year. From competing in the FMG Young farmer of the Year competition for the first time, to making it to the grand finals and now entering into his first contract milking position starting in June.
“I knew from a really young age that I wanted to be a farmer. I grew up on the family farm just south of Timaru”.
The farm was originally a sheep and bull beef farm but when the dairy industry grew, his parents sold up the sheep and bulls and started grazing dairy cows. Part way through his studies at Lincoln they converted the farm to dairy.The family farm has been in the family for generations, with the original part of the farm purchased back in 1890.
26-year old McAlwee says his dad was ‘hot on his case’ for him to get a tertiary education so packing his bags and heading off to Lincoln was the next logical step after high school.
“Dad was really keen for me to go because he never did and he regretted that. I enjoyed my time there immensely and I honestly don’t think I would have got as far in the competition without my degree! It’s also been a really important base to have for my farming career”.
After graduating in 2017, with some encouragement from his mates, he headed to America to do the harvest and a bit of travelling around. Once home, he took up an opportunity on a friend's family mixed-arable farm before he landed his role as assistant manager at Singletree dairies.
The 600 hectare property milks around 2,500 cows and employs around 11 staff. It’s a big operation that played a large role in setting McAlwee up for success in his career.
“My biggest learning from Singletree has probably been dealing with a whole lot of moving parts. It’s a large operation and there’s a lot of people to interact with. Working on some smaller farms and growing up on a family farm, it was a real change for me to adjust to”.
He says he grew a lot during his time in the role, experience he might not have got on a small farm. With his ambition always to get into farm ownership, McAlwee says he’d been on the look out for a while for his next opportunity.
“From June 1 I’ll be contract milking 1200 cows. It’s that first step on the road towards farm ownership so I’m excited for it. It’s going to be good to be self employed whilst also dealing with employment and the business side of things where I’m the one responsible for everything rather than only focusing on operational objectives.
I’ve been working towards this for a long time, so when the opportunity came I had to grab the bull by the horns”.
The Pendarves Young Farmers Club member started his relationship with Young Farmers while at Timaru Boys Highschool but took a hiatus while at university and working in America.
“I regret not joining a club when I was at university. You meet people from all walks of life, you can always rely on turning up and being able to speak to someone who can help you if you’ve got an issue or an idea you want to float. I landed my contract milking role through contacts I made through Young Farmers”.
With a lot on his plate already, McAlwee is often asked why he decided to enter the competition. He says he entered to support his local club in the district finals, and never dreamt he’d end up in the grand finals, but it's an opportunity he’s grateful to have.
“Honestly, I don’t think the surprise factor has worn off yet. I’m viewing it as a period of personal development and a chance to really test my skills and learn some new ones.
It’s going to be a challenging time preparing for grand finals and starting contract milking but you have to make the most of what life gives you”.