The Success Factor

Success means different things to people. We celebrate two shareholders who are pursuing their goals with determination, innovation and more than a little passion.

Where there’s a will there’s a Way

Whether it is on a local or global platform, making a career out of their hobby, overcoming setbacks or jumping into new territory – Vanessa Way and Peter McIntyre show us it is not riches or recognition that drives their achievements but a constant desire to improve.

One of five kids raised in a non-horsey family in the middle of New Plymouth township with no land or spare cash, Vanessa Way’s path into horse riding was an unconventional one. As a determined 10-year-old she “stalked a local pony breeder” and went on to train her mounts for seven years. With no money for lessons or tack, the teen learnt the hard way. 

“If a pony reared or bucked, or I fell, it was a lesson in what didn’t work. By training myself, I have a wide skill base and intuition that serves my teaching well,” she says.

Vanessa Way is the current number one dressage rider in New Zealand and has been top-ranked for many years but nothing has been given to her; she is doggedness personified. A fascination for her sport sees this elite rider balance competition, training and coaching – both here and abroad. Vanessa’s intensive clinics are sold out around Australasia and she coaches a handful of top young riders on the high performance scene.

Three decades competing has not dulled Vanessa’s hold on the reins either. She won the 2019 New Zealand Dressage Championship on NRM Andreas and was recently named in the Equestrian Sport NZ High-Performance squad for this 11-year-old warmblood and his younger stablemate, NSC Pronto (Level 6). NRM Timbermill Prequel also competes nationally at Level 2.

Being savvy
Her parents may not have been horsey but they encouraged Vanessa to think about financial sustainability from the start. When Vanessa was a teen her Dad said she “couldn’t make money out of horses”. Indeed, after departing a nursing programme, 19-year old Vanessa worked at a stud farm, earning just $100 a week for a year.

At the time her focus was on eventing. In 1993, she won the New Zealand International Bell Tea 3-Day Event on a $500 ex-racehorse and a 20-year-old saddle that cost her $100. “In a way, my Dad was right. To pursue my goals I have had to train young horses up to an elite standard then sell them on. It’s really hard but I have to do it to get ahead. Flying a horse abroad costs $15,000!”
“On the other hand, if I added up the value of my sales, farm, training business and clinics I could say I have made a fair bit of money out of my passion!” she jokes.

“My parents’ outlook helped steer my decisions – should I buy a horse truck or a house? They suugest I get qualifications along the way and look at how successful people have done it.”

Building resilience
Choosing every day as her own involves a lot of hard decisions but experience helps, she says.

“My 20 years competing at the elite level has had many highs and lows. You have to be resilient in this sport.”

This has borne out for her on more than one occasion. Tragically, in 1998 her leading eventer suffered a rotational fall during an event, breaking his neck and dying instantly. Vanessa broke her back and her love of eventing died along with her treasured horse, Roman Abbey.

“I felt so guilty,” she says.

Dressage had always been a strength so Vanessa switched to focus on this discipline in her late twenties.

Another setback came in 2012, when Vanessa qualified for the 2012 Olympics on her warmblood NRM KH Arvan. She had been riding high after a year in England with Carl Hester – MBE, British equestrian maestro and Olympic gold medallist – “working the best horses in the world and learning the best way to train.”

But it was not to be – Arvan damaged the deep digital ligament inside his hoof and was unable to compete in London.

“Working with large creatures that have these incredibly delicate legs… hardship comes from that sometimes.”

Gratitude amidst goal-setting
Vanessa jokes that when her friends see her driving up with a nice horse truck, sponsored kit and world-class tack they think she has it made. But the reality is, Vanessa was a flight attendant until the age of 30, working domestic routes so she could be home in time to train.

“Sometimes I go into my tack shed and look around in disbelief, I really appreciate having such nice things as I didn’t always.”

Vanessa is very grateful to her own world-class mentors, Harry Bolt and Carl Hester.

Unsurprisingly given the fickleness of her business, Vanessa won’t be drawn on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo just yet.

“It’s nice to be number one here but my immediate goal is to take the Aussies down. Yes, I’d like to go where no New Zealander has been. Having seen the top riders in the world prepare, I know what it takes. I know how good I want to be.”

“It’s important to be immersed in the European scene, as that’s where it is at but I don’t want to go there, or anywhere else, just to be an also-run,” she emphasises.

Success is…making your own decisions
Success for Vanessa is “choosing every day as my own boss. There’s great joy in doing something that doesn’t feel like a job.”

“Some people might find managing everything from finances to travel as a burden but I find it liberating. Sure, I don’t have any days off or work normal hours but I guess I’ve always been hard-working.”

It helps that her husband Brooke now works on the business and is incredibly supportive.

“If I need to head to Europe to train with the best in the world he is the first to say ‘you have to do this’. He helps drive the trucks, run the farm and support my staff when I’m not there.”

As a shareholder and NRM-sponsored rider, Vanessa enjoys having the best feed delivered to their farm every week. She also receives advice and support from NRM Equine Nutrition Specialists.

Working with Carl in England those years ago and with him as her ongoing mentor, Vanessa learnt a lot. “He taught me that you’re only as good as your team.
For me, that includes my family, friends, staff and sponsors such as NRM.

Vanessa’s Dad is sadly no longer here but there’s no doubt his daughter has forged a successful path.

Feel-good Gore product goes offshore

A fifth-generation Southland farmer is on a production-to-market journey that is breaking new ground.

For more than 150 years, Peter McIntyre’s family have farmed Benio near Gore. A new chapter began four years ago, when Peter and his wife Sharon took a gamble and began milking the deer they had been farming on their 190-hectare farm.
“We were approached to do it and while we are still in the trial stage it is exciting and that is partly why we have stuck with it,” says Peter.

“Milking deer is brand new, it’s not done anywhere else in the world so it has been unchartered territory.”
The couple work in partnership with Pa¯mu - formerly known as Landcorp, which specialises in the marketing side of the new product.

“Deer milk is beautiful. There has been a lot of testing through Massey University’s food programme and the results are all top-end. It is now used in high-end restaurants in Queenstown, Auckland and Wellington.

“As well as the great taste and texture, it is low in lactose, high in minerals and low in somatic cell count.”

Although the volume is low, about a litre per deer per milking, it is high in milk solids at around 22-27 milk solids per litre.
The McIntyres milk 80-90 deer, mainly over the summer from November to March.

“We have some on once-a-day milking and others on twice-a-day and keep it mixed up for trial purposes.”

Doe-eyed beauty
Their most recent success is having their deer milk used in the lucrative Asian beauty industry. The milk is the key active ingredient in a range of cosmetics marketed by Yuhan Corporation, a top South Korean pharmaceutical company. Peter says not long after starting to milk deer he saw the proof was in the pudding.

“We had a farm worker, Becky Tytler, who had milked cows before but when she started milking deer, she noticed how much softer her hands were becoming.

“The deer milk is so thick that it leaves a lot of milk fat on the filter cloth, it actually feels like soap,” says Peter.

“After cleaning the filters at the end of each milking, Becky noticed how soothing the deer milk felt. After just two weeks of milking, she said her hands became noticeably softer and her nails were stronger as well!”

The McIntyres have since adjusted the plant to be more gentle on the milk fats and this does not occur anymore. As with any pioneering product, the fine tuning can take a while.

The ground-breaking partnership with Yuhan to supply Pāmu Deer Milk for its range of cosmetic products was signed in December 2018. It has involved working closely with Yuhan to develop a range of deer milk cosmetic products which are being marketed under the recently unveiled ‘Deerest’ brand. These are available through the Korean giant’s ‘New Origin’ brand stores and online.

Taking the leap results in TV shoot
Peter said the international partnership was critical in terms of securing future opportunities for deer milk.

“We took the initial leap but securing the Yuhan deal reinforced what we were doing. While it is early days, our investment in developing the milk as a food and cosmetics ingredient is showing a positive future.”

“It is incredibly important that we partner with strategic companies like Yuhan, who are committed to research and development as well as the commercialisation of products containing unique ingredients such as deer milk. This relationship involved a Korean film company visiting Gore to shoot footage on-farm for a television ad and store promotion.

“It was an interesting experience – there were catering trucks and generator trucks, sound and lighting crews and about 20 people who spent two days with us filming the content,” recalls Peter.

“The deer were amazing, they just walked through all the sets and we had to watch out they didn’t chew anything!” Global Deerest sales remain to be seen but Pa¯mu deer milk has already won multiple accolades, including an innovation award at last year’s Fieldays and a New Zealand Food Award. It was selected to feature on the menu at the prestigious Asia Top 50 Restaurant awards in Macau this year.

Personality-plus family

Peter says deer milking is labour-intensive with four full-time people and casual staff employed over the summer to milk and rear the fawns. The McIntyre’s children Chris, 25, and Rhiannon, 22, have both had hands-on roles and Sharon has played a pivotal part in refining their selection process.

“In the beginning, we had no selection for the deer – we just brought them in from the paddock and milked them. Now we know what we are looking for and Sharon works in genetics so having her knowledge helps,” says Peter.

Peter also praised his local Farmlands Gore staff who have been “really interested in what we are doing and helpful in sourcing products and supporting the venture”.

“The deer are very quiet. Because of their temperament, if they did not want to be milked you would not be able to do it! Our deer are used to being handled – you can pat them in the paddock and they are happy. We certainly wouldn’t be involved if the animals were not happy.

“Probably the biggest pleasure we have had from the whole venture is the way the hinds have responded to the increased human contact. Every deer has a different personality; they interact with us and want to have our company.

“Some are cheeky, some are affectionate and some more reserved. They choose to come to us or our visitors for attention out in the paddock.

Peter does not feel they have had complete success yet, more like lots of work and problem-solving.

“We are lining up our product and supply to meet demand, we have done lots of research and made heaps of progress but there is still a lot to do.”

Click here for another on-farm shareholder success story – Ahuwhenua award-winner Kirsty Roa from Hauiti Station talks through her amazing year so far.