Dairy 'rock star' in his homeland

HARD WORK: Enda Hawe instructs farmworker Rodel Manuel at his Oxford farm.
HARD WORK: Enda Hawe instructs farmworker Rodel Manuel at his Oxford farm.

Irish-born sharemilker Enda Hawe's achievement of being named Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the year in 2012 has made him the talk of Ireland - and he's just back from addressing an audience of 10,000 at the Irish dairy farmers conference.

"I've been in the papers and on the radio, I think seven times since I went home," said Hawe.

"If you ask my wife, I felt like a rock star over there. I had people spotting me no matter where I went. You know, I don't like patting myself on the back, but I'll tell you anyway - I'm a bit of a saving grace for a country that's probably struggling.

"I was invited over to talk about the progression in farming and basically how I can make money here when nobody in Ireland can make money. That was quite easy - anyone who wants to work hard will always make money regardless of the country they're in - if you're in the right job."

Hawe came to New Zealand 12 years ago and has risen through dairy farming ranks to become a 50/50 sharemilker on a 220-hectare new conversion near Oxford, something he said he could never achieve in Ireland.

"My Dad's got 150 acres and he's nearly 70. If I was to be at home today, he'd be paying me wages and he'd be calling the shots and I'm 35 years of age. And that's normal when you live there.

"I graduated in 2001 and I met heaps of people at the conference that were in my class and they'd say, 'if I had to go then, I would have but I'm at home now and I'm still living with my parents'. So, yeah, it's a hard one, you know."

Hawe said Irish holdings were small and the costs of production high, and he estimated 70 per cent of farmers there would lose money were it not for European subsidies.

"I'll be honest with you and say there's a lot of them that are not that switched on. They're on hand-me-down farms that you just walk into and continue on. And even if you do think outside the square, your old man probably wouldn't allow you to change anyway.

"Like, for instance, my old man is nearly 70 and I said to him, 'Why don't you milk once a day and make it a whole lot easier?' 'Oh no,' he said, 'because the neighbours would think I'm gone mad'. That was his reason, so what do you do with that?"

Hawe now owns 820 cows.

"To win that award shows there is life outside Ireland and people who go away can be successful. I didn't mind singing that line because it's probably good for them to hear the stories of people who go and work hard and are successful."

In his first season in Oxford, Hawe exceeded his budgeted 247,000 kilograms of milk solids by 25 per cent for a total of 309,000.

"So my owner, who's new to dairying because he was in beef and sheep, those figures are outrageous for him. So he's smiling, he's literally a year ahead of where he thought he'd be.

"I'm up where I hoped to be because I'm always ambitious anyway but I far out did myself this year."

The Press