Dad’s wis­dom a boost to farmer


When news Fon­terra had dropped its pay­out to $4.70/kg milk solids reached Phillip White, he sought out his son Thomas who is 50 per cent sharemilk­ing the fam­ily farm near Pu­taruru.

‘‘Things are never as good as they seem and things are never as bad as they seem,’’ he told him.

It was, Thomas re­called, one of the best pieces of ad­vice he ever re­ceived.

The words have stuck with him over the en­su­ing months as he farms through the low pay­out this sea­son and have kept him pos­i­tive and fo­cused on the task at hand.

‘‘Things are never as bad as they seem,’’ he re­peats.

It keeps his fo­cus on what is hap­pen­ing in­side the farm gate.

The pay­out and weather are fac­tors be­yond his con­trol.

‘‘You can’t worry about the weather, but you can make the most of the grass that’s on the ground.

‘‘You can’t worry about the pay­out and there’s no point beat­ing up Fon­terra and the other milk com­pa­nies about it.’’

Thomas is in his third year sharemilk­ing the 100 hectare farm with wife Richelle.

He said the ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing to farm the prop­erty through two con­sec­u­tive droughts hard­ened him men­tally.

‘‘Af­ter the first year on this farm, we knew we could han­dle what we could han­dle, be­cause that was only a $5.80 pay­out.’’

This sea­son the 335 cows are on tar­get to pro­duce 130,000kg MS and are 17 per cent ahead of pro­duc­tion com­pared with the pre­vi­ous sea­son. He cred­its the in­stal­la­tion of an in-shed feeder that feeds a PKE blend with help­ing boost pro­duc­tion.

Many peo­ple thought dairy farm­ers had money to burn when the pay­out reached $8.40 last year and he avoided the temp­ta­tion to buy up big.

Many of their costs for this sea­son, such as feed, were al­ready locked in and he is bud­get­ing on a $4.70 pay­out for the rest of the sea­son, hav­ing started the sea­son at $6. This is the long-term av­er­age pay­out.

He has held his labour costs for this sea­son, and em­ploys one staff mem­ber, Storm Bur­rows.

Hav­ing a plan and see­ing it through was equally im­por­tant. There was no point in hav­ing a de­tailed bud­get if it was not con­stantly re­viewed and re­vised.

He has also put his eq­uity growth plans on hold.

‘‘But that doesn’t re­ally worry us. Both Richelle and my­self are in it for the long term long term, we are not go­ing to sell our herd any time soon and we are prob­a­bly go­ing to look to grow it.

‘‘You have to love what you do to get out at 4am ev­ery day and in some years, there is not go­ing to be a profit at the end of the sea­son.’’

But it was still a great in­dus­try to be in­volved in. There were few jobs that al­lowed him to spend lunch at his house play­ing with his in­fant son, Eliot.

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