11 Aug 2015

Sharemilkers urged to work with farmers

5:55 pm on 11 August 2015

An award-winning sharemilker is urging all sharemilkers to work with their farm owners to make a plan to get through the low dairy payout together.

Melissa and Justin Slattery.

Melissa and Justin Slattery. Photo: Twitter

Justin and Melissa Slattery are the sharemilker/equity farmers of the year for the national dairy industry awards, and are 50:50 sharemilking 550 cows at Culverden, North Canterbury.

Mr Slattery said since hearing Fonterra's announcement they had made decisions around cutting costs but were unsure of whether or not to change their whole system.

He said a meeting with their farm owner definitely settled unease though.

"Friday's announcement: I've been thinking about it all week and it made you feel pretty sick, but we've sat down and done some budgets, we sat down with the farm owner yesterday and we're going to change a few things on the farm.

"We're still going to run at a loss, but it's just getting through this year.

"One good thing is the beef price, or cow cull money is pretty good - we can get close to $1000 a head, so we're going to get rid of our late calvers, we've got 27 going tomorrow so we're slightly destocking.

"With culling these extra 27 it's going to give us an extra eight hectares which we're going to plant with fodder beat.

"We're looking at wintering more cows on farm because that's one of our major cost is wintering in the south Island here. My wife is an accountant so she's full time back in the office just so we can get by."

Mr Slattery said he felt for those who were new to the industry: while they may not have high debt, they are trying to save and make money in any way they can.

"A few things going up on TradeMe that we don't need - staff-wise, we don't really want to get rid of our staff because we've got to be healthy too or we'll run ourselves into the ground. There's a price that you've got to put on that.

He had a few words of advice for other sharemilkers.

"Sit down with your accountant and bank manager, do your budgets, keep in contact with all of those guys, especially your farm owners too.

"We had a meeting with our farm owner yesterday, sort of an emergency type meeting, and after stewing over it all weekend, we were feeling quite sick about it.

"He was really good and reassuring, and we had a plan, and you feel slightly better about the situation and can carry on, we're all in the same boat together really."

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