The search for the best in New Zealand's dairy industry has been narrowed down to 33 finalists across three categories.
National awards convener Chris Keeping said many finalists were relatively new to the industry, having changed careers, and were tapping into the resources and knowledge available to boost their farm businesses and make rapid progress in the industry.
"Entering the dairy industry awards is one way they have identified they can improve their knowledge and skills, meet rural professionals and other like-minded farmers, lift their confidence, have some fun and enhance their reputation," she said.
Award categories are sharemilker-equity farmer of the year, farm manager and dairy trainee.
The sharemilker contest is celebrating 25 years in 2014, making it the country's longest-running dairy farming competition.
Winners will be announced in Auckland on May 9, with nearly $160,000 in cash and prizes available.
Keeping said the finalists were busy hosting regional field days and preparing for national judging.
"It's a really busy and fulfilling time as they gain feedback and also re-evaluate their goals and how they can best achieve them," she said.
"This year's bunch demonstrates the higher degree of professionalism being required in the industry as many hold bachelor degrees.
"It is also really pleasing to see the number of females competing in the dairy trainee contest and the number of finalists that have progressed in the dairy industry awards, having been past regional winners at a lower level."
Sharemilker-equity – Northland, Lance and Stephanie Oliver; Auckland-Hauraki, Bryce and Rosemarie Costar; Waikato, James and Melissa Barbour; Bay of Plenty, Brett and Natasha Grindrod; Central Plateau, Donald and Kirsten Watson; Taranaki, Charlie and Johanna McCaig; Manawatu, Duncan and Kim Fraser; Hawke's Bay-Wairarapa, Tony and Zoe Kuriger; West Coast-Top of the South, Chris and Carla Staples; Canterbury-North Otago, Kevin and Sara O'Neill; Southland-Otago, Steve Henderson and Tracy Heale.
Farm manager – Northland, Michael and Donna Carroll; Auckland-Hauraki, Simon Player; Waikato, Liam Zander; Bay of Plenty, Thomas Blackett and Stacey Lepper; Central Plateau, Robert Hartley; Taranaki, Michael Shearer; Manawatu, Sam Ebbett; Hawke's Bay-Wairarapa, Nick Bertram; West Coast-Top of the South, Jason Macbeth; Canterbury-North Otago, Phillip Colombus; Southland-Otago, Jared Crawford.
Dairy trainee – Northland, Matthew Snedden; Auckland-Hauraki, Marion Reynolds; Waikato, Nathan Hubbard; Bay of Plenty, Cameron Luxton; Central Plateau, Ruth Hone; Taranaki, Ben Frost; Manawatu, Hayley Hoogendyk; Hawke's Bay-Wairarapa, Alice Gysbertsen; West Coast-Top of the South, Amy White; Canterbury-North Otago, Isaac Vujcich; Southland-Otago, Josh Lavender.