Confident and among the best

TRUSTING HIS INSTINCTS: Winton dairy worker Robert Ankerson is back on the farm after enjoying success at doing what he loves.
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
TRUSTING HIS INSTINCTS: Winton dairy worker Robert Ankerson is back on the farm after enjoying success at doing what he loves.

It's not about winning when you love what you're doing. Shawn McAvinue talks to a Southland dairy trainee about being judged one of New Zealand's best.

Winton dairy farmer Robert Ankerson, 23, was judged the second-best trainee in New Zealand at the Dairy Industry Awards in Auckland this month and took home $3000 in prizes.

Not that money had ever been the driving force for working in the dairy industry, Mr Ankerson said.

"You do it because you love it."

He entered the competition to network and hoped the exposure would help his career progress.

He believed farm ownership was achievable, even when sharemilking positions were becoming more scarce. "But there are 101 ways to skin a cat."

A fall in milk prices could mean cow prices drop, which would give him an opportunity to gain a foothold in the industry, he said.

He has signed on for another season in his second-in-charge position at Winton, where there are 920 cows on a 282-hectare milking platform.

However, in the following season, he hoped to secure a lower order sharemilking position on another farm.

He enjoyed the lifestyle dairy farming allowed his family – fiancee Catherine Sunderland and two children, Paige, 3, and Liam, 1.

"There's not many jobs where you can see your kids and fiancee during the day," Mr Ankerson said. He met Ms Sunderland at a party in Southland a few years ago, when she was visiting from Melbourne, he said.

Mr Ankerson's late English father and Scottish mother came to New Zealand 30 years ago and his father's land-trading meant his childhood was split between Mossburn, Heriot, Orepuki and Britain.

During his schooling, there was a lack of education on what could be achieved in the dairy industry, he said.

Pupils were pushed to become doctors or lawyers, but there was no mention of the earning potential in the dairy industry, he said.

Not that he was in it for the money. Greater rewards than financial were available in the dairy industry, like learning during the competition to trust his gut instincts when farming, he said.

"It's given me the confidence to pursue my goals and believe in myself."