John Ladley “pulling on an old jersey” for DINZ industry capability

Sep 14, 2023

New DINZ industry capability manager John Ladley says he’ll be “pulling on an old jersey, that’s been renovated a wee bit” for his new role, focused on ensuring the deer industry has the best skills and knowledge to move into the future.

Ladley’s “both excited and pleased” to have started work at the end of August, “supporting primary producers and delivering outcomes,” as part of the DINZ team. 

New DINZ industry capability manager, John Ladley.

Reporting to chief executive Innes Moffat and based in Christchurch, he’ll be extending his external network, made over the years in his previous agribusiness and industry roles, with more deer-specific ones.

Until the start of this year, Ladley had been working with Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) as its general manager South Island for the previous five years.

In that role, Ladley was involved with development of the organisation’s farming excellence strategy in 2018-2019. He was also lead for several projects and groups, including B+LNZ’s Farmer Council, the Innovation Farm programme, its Kaikoura post-earthquake farming project, delivery of RMPP’s Action Network – that had followed the same principles as the deer industry’s Advance Parties – and investments into people and training.

Nelson born and bred, Ladley spent many of his holidays helping on relations’ farms and was “surrounded by opportunities in the primary sector,” many of which he says helped to shape him and his career.

Indirectly connected to deer through farming friends and relations, he started work firstly in orchards, before moving on to work for CRT (now Farmlands), and later Wrightson Seeds, then Summit Quinphos (now part of Ballance Agri-Nutrients) for a short stint, before moving back to seeds for a decade-long role as Barenbrug’s national sales manager.

“Passionate about supporting farmers and growers and ensuring organisations can deliver positive outcomes for farmers,” throughout his career, Ladley says he most enjoys being able to support and connect people in the rural community.

Building strong relationships is “really, really important,”and he’ll be working on them both within the organisation and with its stakeholders.

“It is, after all, the relationships we have within our rural communities that create the success.”

Understanding “what my team do and how I can best support them, so we deliver value for deer farmers,” is one of his first goals in his new role, which encompasses quality assurance and draws in farm performance too.

Ladley wants to gain a “strong understanding of what our deer farmers need in the way of capability and extension to ensure the support provided meets their needs behind the farmgate,” he says.

Ensuring, “we’ve got the right genetics and evaluation tools for farmers to have at their fingertips,” is part of it. “But, it’s also about ensuring we’ve got the right quality assurance programmes in place, whether that’s for New Zealand venison, Cervena® or velvet. And, that we’re also trying to do the right thing by our animals and our land.”

Generational change is one of the deer industry’s biggest issues, he recognises, as the pioneers start to step out of farming. Building that capacity behind the farmgate is also an important part of his remit. He’ll be looking at “how to encourage people to continue to farm deer” as an indispensable stock class, “along with the right pathways for the next generation to come into the sector.”

At the time of writing, Ladley had already met some of the producers in Southland and Otago and was looking forward to meeting deer farming leaders at the NZ Deer Farmers Association branch chairs conference early next month.

Married to wife Brigid since 2001, the couple are based in Christchurch and have three children, Mollie, George and Tom.

Outside of work he can be found mountain biking, “making the most of the BBQ and our quality red meat with a quiet craft beer”. In the winter months, he will be on the sidelines of hockey games cheering on one or other of his son’s teams.

“I am looking forward to building my knowledge of the deer industry and supporting it to achieve the goals and aspirations it has in my role as industry capability manager.”

Ladley will replace former QA manager Rob Gregory who will leave DINZ at the end of September and will also pick up aspects of Phil McKenzie’s farm performance role.

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