With a passion for the dairy industry running through her veins, Hayley Metcalfe savours the sweet memories of her childhood – a honey sandwich in one hand, watching the cows come into the shed and patiently awaiting the bliss of a full-cream hot chocolate, straight out of the vat. Home for Hayley, her partner and her two children is a lifestyle block on ‘Metcalfe Road’, aptly named after her father and not far from the mighty Waikato town of Ngahinapouri. Following in her father’s footsteps – a successful dairy farmer, man in governance and data analyst – Hayley is proud to share her story of working with the Livestock Improvement Cooperation (LIC) to deliver valuable information to farmers, boost milk quality and production while maintaining a strict focus on keeping both her team and the farmers they interact with safe and healthy.
When asked what concerned Hayley about the health, safety and wellbeing of those in rural industries and communities, she spoke of her constant worry during peak herd testing times, where her team are notorious for working extremely long hours at both ends of the day, six days a week. As such, Hayley makes it her prerogative to set each and every one of her people up for success – ensuring everyone is well-versed in the importance of looking for potential problems, assessing the risks and taking preventative action. Colloquially known as ‘change junkies’, her team are completely and utterly free to flex their initiative to find and implement solutions to keep themselves safe, without hassle or question. This, Hayley says, is key to building a culture that values the importance of health and safety.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Loyal, driven and caring.
Tell us something interesting about yourself...
I was fortunate enough to grow up on a dairy farm near Ngahinapouri in the Waikato. My most favourite memory as a kid was living in my dad’s pocket, going everywhere with him on the farm. Part of which was getting the cows in for milking. A honey sandwich in my hand sitting in front of dad on the motorbike, and desperate for the first row of cows to come through the shed for a milky hot chocolate, with full creamy milk… bliss! We had a herd of 250 cows. Dad was pretty impressed coming home one day and seeing the road named after him – it still impresses my two children today!
My father has very much influenced my career in the dairy industry having been a very successful dairy farmer in his own right; holding directorships and various political roles within the Waikato Dairy Company and Federated Farmers. Although I did not share my father’s love of data gathering on his girls through herd testing all those years ago, some things haven’t changed. The little yellow book used to record cow information is still around and so is conventional testing. And now, all these years later, it’s me getting excited about the thought of this data and how we can better use it!
What achievements are you most proud of?
My two kids – they are the absolute delight of my life. They are fast becoming strong, handsome and beautiful humans that I admire through their own life lessons. They continually challenge me and make me want to live a clean and healthy lifestyle and become a better mother.
My role at LIC as Upper North Regional Herd Test Manager has allowed me to follow and develop my passion in the dairy industry and grow personally. I started at LIC as the Safety and Wellbeing Advisor which is where my passion for health and safety started. It was a natural progression in my career to move into an operations management role leading a large team, where there is a very high level of health and safety to continually manage, in addition to the personal development of my team. I am really proud of the service that we provide our customers delivering valuable information to them and helping them keep their herd safe to boost milk quality and production.
What makes you truly happy?
Spending time with my kids and partner Grant, be it on the farm or at the beach. As long as we are together having fun and enjoying each other – that makes me so happy.
What do you love the most about being a rural woman?
Cows of course! And the people. I am constantly amazed at how our farming sector changes so quickly to adapt to new rules, regulations and constraints through environmental change and what is happening in the world. I am blessed to work in a really high performing team within my region and am surrounded by passionate team members who are doing their very best to deliver a high quality and efficient service to our farmers.
I love the opportunities the rural sector can provide for a great career within a fabulous company which cares about the safety and wellbeing of people across the business. I’m an outdoors girl, so being outside on farm is definitely my happy space, and meeting the most incredible people along the way, listening to their stories and continually learning from them.
Tell us about a time when you felt worried about your own or someone else’s health, safety or wellbeing.
My team work very long hours during the peak of herd testing. I worry about them continually – whether have they arrived on farm OK, and have eaten and slept well enough the night before to drive to the farm in a three tonne truck and set up sheds all day. Some of them start very early in the morning and work long hours, six days a week.
What practical things did - or could - you or someone else do to prevent yourself or someone else from getting hurt?
We have excellent processes in place and have great tools to be able to do our jobs. The teams are continually trained and re-trained on hazard identification and assessing the risks that these hazards could pose to our safety and wellbeing.
Our hazards are generally found in and around cow sheds, so a good portion are well managed between my team and our great customers. We continually update operational comments in our systems, so it’s flagged as an issue for the next person coming onto farm. We work hard to get alongside our customers to show and help them come up with their own solutions that will keep us and them safer together.
Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner or those you work or spend time with are more willing to make changes to the way the work is done, or are more open to making safer, healthier choices?
Leaders who lead with the purpose of ensuring the safety of their people naturally build high performing teams through mutual trust and care. Health and safety – to a point – is a choice; you either make good choices and health and safety becomes part of your personality and is ingrained into everyday life, or you choose to take the risk of always pushing the boundaries to see what happens.
My team have learnt to become change junkies, and that means they are now finding new solutions to make the team safer themselves, and they implement these changes quickly and without question. That’s the key to building a good safety culture, when your own team is coming up with the ideas to keep each other safe.
If you could give any advice to another rural woman about health, safety and/or wellbeing in rural industries and communities, about influencing change in business - or just in general - what would it be?
People are the single most important factor in everything we do around health and safety – it’s about creating opportunities for people to explore new ideas, change a process, make a process, feel protected by us as an employer and give our teams the tools to be safe – all of the time.
The only thing that ever keeps me awake at night is the health and safety of my team, so it’s my responsibility to make sure I do everything within my power to keep them safe and get them home to all their families at the end of every day.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I think health and safety in our sector has come a long way from where it was and thankfully the changes being made are positive. There are some great people doing great things. I think it’s about keeping open lines of communication on all levels. Encouraging people to be brave and implement change, and continually improve the process. Don’t be scared to try new things, if it doesn’t work – who cares?! It might also work – and the joy and self-achievement that comes with that is worth it. Above all, it’s about doing everything possible to keep people safe. Looking forward, I’d like to get more involved in industry groups and get alongside some successful women in the agri sector doing great things and learn from each other. The #PlantASeedForSafety Project is a great initiative also and one I’m excited to be a part of.