If you want to find one Agwoman who is shaping her own future then look no further than Manawatu dairy farm manager Hayley Hoogendyk. Hayley grew up in Mount Maunganui where soccer was her life. She not only played at a high level, but also coached and refereed, every day of the week. It’s what she lived for.

Following school Hayley attended Massey University to do a business degree majoring inSports Management. It was while at Massey that she did a lot of volunteer work for the student association, in the events department. So it seemed natural following completion of her degree that she stepped into an events management role for the Student Association, for a couple of years. It was when the role was disestablished, and while searching for a new events job, that she went milking cows with a friend. Having never milked a cow before her main aim was to not get pooped on.

It was following this successful milking experience that she thought to herself ‘that was a bit of fun, and applied for a relief milking job, milking 500 cows down the road, to fill in time before her next events manager’s role. After the interview they rung her back to say they wanted to offer her a farm assistant position. Hayley told him he was mad. Apparently, this didn’t deter him, and being one always up for a challenge thought why not!

So, she jumped into a farm assistant role in the middle of calving and worked 18 days straight “I thought I was going to die” says Hayley. “I faced a lot of negative feedback from people around me saying I was too small, weak and wouldn’t handle the work involved in being a farmer”. However, being the courageous Agwoman she is this fuelled her to prove them all wrong, which is something she loves doing.

After 6 months the manager moved on herself and the other farm assistant were trusted to run the farm. 20 months on Hayley had conquered what was probably the steepest learning curve she believes she had ever experienced. She had gone from not even realising a cow had to have a calf to start producing milk, to making all of the day to day decisions, including pasture, feed and animal health. That’s quite an achievement Hayley and would explain why you were the deserving winter of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards - ManawatuTrainee of the year 2 years later while in your first year in a 2IC role milking 330 cows.

After 2 years on the new property, the manager moved on giving Hayley the opportunity to manage the farm for a season before the lease finished, they dropped down to 220 cows and she was left sole charge. Once Hayley was managing, she decided to enter the Dairy Industry Awards Manager of the year competition and came second in the Manawatu.

Once the lease finished, she continued with the same farm owners before moving to the home farm to manage 650 cows, 3 staff and system 5 feed levels. Conquering another steep learning curve, Hayley then went on to win the Dairy Industry Awards Manawatu Dairy manager of the year competition. Then to top it off she also achieved her goal of winning the national title for Dairy Manager.

Hayley became the first female ever to win the Manager competition, and it was a huge privilege, and shows that hard work pays off. “I also proved to a lot of people ‘see I can be a successful farmer’. It has opened doors to be a role model for young farming women and show that we are now on the same level as the men. I really enjoy talking to young people about how great the industry is and all the opportunities available within the dairy industry”

Hayley is now managing a 500 cow system 3 farm, with high producing cows, with a major focus on breeding, and pasture. She has two people as part of her farm team, and very supportive farm owners, who are always challenging her to improve. “The farm owners allow me the flexibility to change things and run the farm in a non-traditional way. I regularly do things and run the farm in a way that no-one else is doing yet. A lot of people think I am mad and crazy, but I love leading the way with changes. Making a difference in the industry and making people question if they are doing things as good as they can. Because who says we have to do things ‘by the book’. I say write your own book!!”

Hayley has also had the opportunity to influence a lot of students on farm over the years, through a wide range of programs. This has been a process she has found extremely rewarding, and so enjoys watching them grow into farmers. Most have gone onto full time jobs within the industry, and she keeps in contact with them ensuring they are on the right track and helping them when they want it. Training people is Hayley’s favourite part of farming, because she believes you are always learning, and there is always a better way to do things, slight improvements you can make, and you are always tweaking your system.

Outside the farm gate, Hayley is the chairman forNew Zealand Young Farmers Manawatu District, along with the leadership officer forTaranaki/Manawatu Region Young Farmers, and the health and safety officer for the Fitzherbert Young Farmers Club. Through Young Farmers, she also tries to compete in as many of the competitions as possible to take advantage of the skills and training that they provide. The achievement she is proudest of in Young Farmers is coming runner up in the National debating champs, in their first year competing. In addition, to these roles (because she isn’t busy enough), Hayley is also the Young Farmers representative on the Federated Farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei committee. She says “I see this as a vital role to reduce the divide between the two organisations to ensure young farmers aging out, have some where to turn their skills and knowledge to. It is an enjoyable and rewarding role being on the Federated Farmers committee”

Hayley is proud to be an Agwoman because she knows how much of a difference, women have made to the industry in recent times, and how much more they will make in the future! You are an Agwoman to be proud of Hayley, keep up the great work and all the best for the future.

📸 credit to NZDairyFarmer