Staying power

Bay of Plenty dairy farm manager Dayna Rowe and her team are building a great workplace together – one so energising, no one wants to leave. Here’s how they’re shaping up.

Inside Dairy

6 min read

Dayna Rowe (2nd from right) is into her second season with team members (L-R) 2IC Dayna Ayling, senior farm assistant Nicolas Plaa and farm assistant Jared Rendell.

Dayna Rowe's into only her second season of managing a farm team, but she's quickly found her preferred approach. 

“It’s the way you develop your team, it’s the way you treat your team and really encourage them, that makes all the difference. That’s been a huge part of my own style as I’ve come into managing staff,” she says. 

Despite being brought up on the family farm, Dayna didn’t really fall in love with dairying until she got a summer job milking cows and spraying weeds at home during a university break. Four years, two farms and a lot of hard work later, Dayna was offered the 2021/22 season farm manager role on her parents’ farm at Pongakawa near Te Puke. 

Rowe Farm runs 970 cows on 289ha (effective), on “dead flat” land. Its peat soils lie very low and close to the water table, so it has a one-hectare herd home to feed and house the cows in during wet periods, and for calving in, in the winter months. The job offer topped off a great couple of years for Dayna; she’d won Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee of the Year in the 2021 NZ Dairy Industry Awards, and been runner-up in the same category in 2020. 

Born and raised on Rowe Farm, Dayna's now on track to take over the business

Farm Facts

Dayna Rowe


Farm manager


Pongakawa, Bay of Plenty

Farm size:

289ha (effective)

Herd size:

970 KiwiCross


358,460kg MS

Great futures ahead

Now still only 24, Dayna’s goal over the next three to five years is to continue building up the family farm, increasing her equity and purchasing some of the herd. Her passion and care for her farm team was clear for all to see when she spoke a few months ago at DairyNZ’s launch of its Great Futures in Dairying workforce plan (see sidebar on page 7). The 10-year plan addresses the sector’s current labour shortage, and Dayna commented on one of its three focus areas: helping the sector to ‘shape up’. 

“While the plan highlights what we already know – which is that we're understaffed as an industry – it actually turns the question back to our community and puts the ball in the farmers’ court,” says Dayna. 

“We know what support we need from outside the farm gates, but the Great Futures in Dairying plan asks us what we can be doing as managers and farm owners to open up those farm gates and make the industry more appetising. 

“Shaping up is about being competitive with every other industry in New Zealand. It's not just about the money – it’s about being competitive in the way we treat our staff; in the way we can develop them and grow them through the industry.”

Everyone in the team has a say in on-farm decisions, jobs and activities.

Everyone on board 

Dayna and her partner Sam are keen surfers, heading down some lunchtimes to Pukehina Beach. Dayna also loves and teaches dancing.

Her off-farm talents echo two key elements in her management style: balance and keeping everyone happily on their toes. Importantly, Dayna does this with their input. She lets her team have a major say in roster-setting, divvies up jobs based on their personal skillsets and preferences, holds off-farm team-building activities at least twice a season, and has a weekly team meeting on Tuesday mornings. 

“Those meetings are run by the whole team. They're an open place for everyone to share, not just me speaking to them,” emphasises Dayna. 

She takes a similar approach when she sits down with each team member for a three-monthly one-on-one. “I really let them lead that conversation, so I'm not putting any ideas in their head.” 

Dayna makes sure her team have an opportunity to upskill, too. “They’re welcome to do any sort of education, whether it be people management courses or Primary ITO courses. If they pass their course, we’ll pay their fees – it’s a little bit of an incentive for them to actually go and do well.” 

Milking the schedules

Dayna says she and her team’s open discussions around roster-setting aim for maximum flexibility for all, “especially in the changing times of the seasons like calving”. 

“I make an initial roster; then it gets redone about three times to accommodate everyone's needs as best as I can. I like to make sure there's time for everyone's relationships and extracurricular activities: study, family time, whatever is important to them.” 

Last season saw a move to milking ten times in seven days (10- in-7), which has given more time for on-farm work, as well as family and other things like hobbies and off-farm activities. Over calving, milking shifts to three times in two days (3-in-2), with one of those weekend days being twice-a-day milking. They shift back to 10-in-7 at Christmas. 

“A big part of it is flexibility,” says Dayna. “If people want to work through the day so they can get to their kids' sport games by 3pm, or get to the doctor or other appointments, they're more than welcome to do that – so long as they communicate that with me.”

Those meetings are run by the whole team. They're an open place for everyone to share, not just me speaking to them.

Dayna’s approach to shaping up a workplace

  1.    Treat people how you’d like to be treated

Everybody needs to be treated with respect. Farm assistants should be enjoying their job and feeling just as valued as managers, farm owners and 2ICs.

      2.   Make space for conversation

Let everybody catch up and drink their coffee for five minutes in the office before they start the day. Talk about what the plan is and what each of you is doing.

      3.   Listen and talk to your team

Your team knows how they could shape up – they already think about these things. So, ask them. Listen to them and take what they've got to say on board.

Dayna started using agritech system Halter about six months ago as one strategy to ease pressure on the team and cows.

If you get a name for yourself as a workplace environment that's desirable to work in, you will attract people who want to work for you.

Getting out what you put in

Funnily enough, showing care for her team has circled back to Dayna. 

“People on my team now often ask what I would like time for. They’ve offered to do things like night checks for me on the evenings where I like to do my sports after work or something. That shows they’ve noticed and appreciated me doing it for them.” 

Shaping up their workplace together has given everyone staying power too. Her whole team has stuck with Dayna from the end of last season into this season. Nobody had to change over at the start of calving, which Dayna says can be much more challenging if it involves training new people. 

“That was an awesome feeling: that what we're doing together is working, people want to be here, and they want to stay a part of this team. If you get a name for yourself as a workplace environment that's desirable to work in, you will attract people who want to work for you.”

Future opportunities

Dayna is acutely aware that changing the way people work on-farm will be a critical part of ensuring the dairy sector can offer great jobs and great workplaces. That’s why she’s such a supporter of the Great Futures in Dairying workforce plan – and its aim to attract and retain great people to reduce the current labour shortage. She knows it’s going to take effort and buy-in from sector organisations, dairy companies, the Government, and most importantly, from farmers like herself and her team. 

“We’ve got so many great opportunities in the dairy industry,” Dayna says. “It’s so flexible – you can concentrate on everyone’s skillsets to decide who gets what job, too. You can think really differently about how a farm works. 

“That’s what’s really cool: building a workplace that celebrates and creates a positive supportive environment. One that builds up the resilient workforce the Great Futures in Dairying plan talks about.”

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Three-pronged workforce plan

How do we address the critical shortage of workers on our dairy farms? 

Alongside the urgent work we're doing to get staff onshore right now, DairyNZ has collaborated far and wide to develop Great Futures in Dairying. This 10-year plan sets out how we can attract, retain and grow our workforce on-farm. 

This plan identifies three focus areas

  1. Shape up
    So we are competitive and grow and retain our people
  2. Change the job
    To provide modern, productive and safe workplaces
  3. Look in new places
    To attract a larger and more diverse talent pool

Read the plan and find out what on-farm changes you can make at dairynz.co.nz/Great-Futures

Page last updated:

12 Oct 2022


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