By Sam Jaquiery
Dairy farming seemed like a sweet gig to Hayden Goodall.
He loved being outdoors and thought farming meant riding motorbikes around all day. It was also an attractive option after his daughter was born and he knew it was time to settle into a career.
Until then, he had spent a few years concreting and installing insulation in Tauranga after leaving school early.
“I didn’t think I’d go anywhere in the labour jobs I had been doing and I wanted to pursue a career,” Goodall says.
“Being an outdoors guy, there were two career paths that ticked my boxes: commercial fishing and farming. But fishing would mean a lot of time away, which wouldn’t work with a young family, so farming was my best bet.”
He applied for a job on Trade Me in February but had no response until April when he was offered an interview. The farm owner and the manager came to Tauranga one morning and although they were after someone with experience, Goodall made an impression with his attitude.
They invited him to come to see the farm that afternoon and he met them just before milking. He had never milked a cow before and made a shambles of it his first attempt. But it was his attitude that sold him.
“I had the attitude ‘If you teach me, I’ll learn quickly’, and that was important to them, so they were willing to give me a chance.”
He and wife Chelsea and their daughter Amelia moved to the farm in Whakatāne. Chelsea was studying social work so commuted back to Tauranga four days each week to complete her degree.
Goodall quickly realised there was more to farming than riding motorbikes.
“When I started in June it was really cruisy but calving came around quick and I was really in the deep end.
“My concept of farming was completely wrong. I thought you just chucked cows in a paddock and that was it, and I remember watching the wash go through after milking and asking if they did it every day, it just seemed bizarre.”
It was also the year when there was a $3.90/kg milk solids payout and he sensed the stress everyone was under. The farm was also hit hard when the herd was infected with Theileria.
But Goodall maintained his appetite to learn and tried to absorb as much as he could, despite feeling like the majority went over his head.
He started studying through Primary ITO.
With farm owners Matt and Laura Gow being strong advocates for the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards, Goodall entered, winning the trainee section in 2017 for the Bay of Plenty region. In 2021 he won the farm manager section for the same region – going on to finish second in the national finals.
“I was fortunate to have such good farm owners supporting me, they really helped kickstart my career,” Goodall says.
The farm milked 700 spring-calving cows with a team of three operating a system three operation. Goodall spent four years working for the Gows before leaving to seek a managing position.
He left on good terms with the Gows and spent two years managing another farm before returning when a management position became available.
Now he and Chelsea are in their third season contract milking, with Chelsea rearing calves. She has also completed an Agribusiness Diploma.
“We are both on the same page, although she was a city girl who swore she would never milk a cow and didn’t own a pair of gumboots for the first four years I was farming. She’s come a long way.”
Amelia is now 12, and the Goodalls have two more kids – Lilla, 8, and Lincoln,4, and they all love the farming lifestyle.
They also try to go hunting and fishing together whenever they can.
Their ultimate long-term goal is to buy their own support block while 50:50 sharemilking on this farm within the next 10 years.
That sharemilking opportunity should become available in the next five years as the Gows look at their future farming options.
Goodall is pleased he chose his farming pathway. It fuels his outdoors passion and he gets a lot of job satisfaction from doing things right.
He sees huge progression opportunities in dairy and promotes it as an option for others.
“I wasn’t good at school. I didn’t have any qualifications and I started as a farm assistant earning $32,000 – and I could have the opportunity to own a farm one day.
“And there are all the perks, like being provided with housing, which reduces living expenses not having to pay rent and drive to town.
“And I just love the variety. I can play vet and play plumber on the same day, no day is ever the same.”
This article first appeared in the October edition of our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.