Susie Woodward is from a big farming family based in Upstate New York, USA. Growing up with 6 siblings, she was immersed in the family dairy farm and aspired to become a large animal vet, something her father thought would come in handy. In Highschool, Susie became involved in a student organization called the 'FFA' or 'Future Farmers of America'.
“My involvement in FFA gave me a lot of confidence in leadership, public speaking and ignited my passion for agriculture.”
From 2000-2001 Susie represented the New York State FFA Association as President and spent her year promoting leadership, personal growth and career success through agriculture education to fellow students in the FFA. Susie believes her involvement in FFA is what gave her the confidence to travel and try new experiences which took her to Iowa State. She completed her under graduate degree at Iowa State University, a Bachelor of Science with Distinction, majoring in Dairy Science in 2004.
After four years at University Susie needed a break from studying, and took up a full-time role as a Herd Manager on a 3500 cow Dairy farm in California.
Susie's main role as Herd Manager was to oversee the breeding cows, as well as monitor and maintain processes in the calving barn. With Susie's interest in animal health and the aspiration to go on to study vet, she got to work closely alongside the farm vet. Helping out with manual pregnancy testing, embryo transplants and any necessary surgeries including LDA’s (left displaced abomasum’s). While it was a fantastic job and offered Susie a lot of responsibility and opportunities to explore her passions, she knew that long term it wasn't what she wanted to be doing.
The vet Susie worked alongside had contacts in Australia and New Zealand, so in 2005 she departed on a working holiday for 5 months, investigating and exploring dairy farming practices in Canterbury, New Zealand. She arrived at Robindale Dairies in Canterbury, the flagship farm for Synlait. With every intention of returning to the states to continue studying towards becoming a Vet, Susie had a change of perspective. As well as meeting her future husband, Michael who was 2IC on the property. She found the opportunities in the New Zealand dairy industry were huge and exciting, completely different to farming in the states.
Michael and Susie discovered that they were a fantastic team. Together within the same business based in Dunsandel, they worked their way up from farm workers on salaries, to management, contract milking and now in their current role as 50:50 sharemilkers. “At one point in our career to date we were contract milking 3000 cows and employing up to 19 staff between two farms”
Together, Michael and Susie have been named the 2011 Canterbury/North Otago Farm Managers of the Year and came third at Nationals in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards. Five years later in 2016 they were named the regions Share Farmer of the Year and came runner up at Nationals. Along the way they have received merit awards in the areas of Human Resources, Business Management, Farm Management, Health and Safety, Recording and Productivity and Leadership.
Twelve years since Susie first arrived in New Zealand and four children later, she has come a long way. Currently at home with their youngest child who is only 5 months old, she is focusing on farm admin, payroll and HR requirements and still feels very much a part of their 1000 cow 50/50 farming business.
"I am so fortunate for my upbringing, I was very hands on on the farm from such a young age. I learnt such important life skills and farming practices. I learnt about hard work, responsibility, life and death, weather impacts, cropping, and food production. I feel so privileged to provide a quality food product for others. It is so rewarding! Ultimately, we want to recreate these opportunities for our own children, it is one of our goals to pass on the passion for farming to the next generation."
It must be so rewarding being so hands on on your farm. You both are working so hard to pass on the passion to the next generation! Great work Susie!