“Rewards are there if you want them”
Belinda Price was working as a travel agent with no thoughts of marrying a farmer until she met and married her husband Ben.
Both now 38, Belinda grew up in the Far North while Ben grew up in Coastal Taranaki on the farm where his parents have been sharemilking since he was born.
“Since I left school at 16 I’ve always known that farming’s where I wanted to be, and I’ve worked my up through the industry since then,” says Ben.
Sixteen years of marriage and two children later Ben and Belinda Price are 50/50 sharemilkers on a 650-cow farm near Waitotara.
Six months ago they bought 80 hectares running 280 cows an hour’s drive away near Opunake. They hope to build up to 300 cows next season having just got another 14 hectares Maori leaseland in behind their property.
“We plan to stay here sharemilking, as long as the farm owners are happy, to try and pay debt down and eventually when finance permits we’ll go and live on our own farm,” says Belinda, “but it might take a few years.”
As Ben explains: “It depends on the pay-out, and Belinda’s thinking of diversifying and bringing in a secondary income off farm. We’ve got a few balls up in the air. ”
They bought the farm six months ago and finances are tight. Not living there themselves and with staff to think about means there are limitations on what they can manage, but they intend to make a start where they can says Ben.”
It’s got one small waterway which is fenced off but I just feel it needs more. We want to plant more trees and put in more shelter belts.”
“We’ve painted the cowshed,” says Belinda, “so we’ve started to put our own character on it but we want to do a whole lot more in the next six or seven months.
“We’re aware of public perception and we’ve always felt strongly about taking care of staff, and caring for the environment and animal welfare. The farm has lots of road frontage so planting’s a big thing for us and it ticks all those boxes. We’re just looking at ways we can be sustainable really.”
They’re waiting on the figures to come in showing how the different paddocks are performing before they make too many decisions, but there was one block they had to plant.
“We went with a mix we’re familiar with, with a bit of white clover and plantain. We want to minimize nitrogen loss and with the deeper roots we’ll see how it copes with the drier conditions,” says Ben.
Having achieved their main goal a couple of years early, of purchasing their own farm before they’re 40, they haven’t had long to start finetuning their next five and ten year goals.
They like the idea of running a strongly A2/A2 herd on their farm eventually, as much for personal reasons as anything else says Belinda.
“Our son had severe eczema and we found he could drink the A2 milk when he can’t drink the A1 milk. So while that’s not so much part of our business plan there is a potential for it to have a premium on it, although they’re not doing it in Taranaki at the moment.” “Another discussion we’ve just started is about going once-a-day,” says Ben.”
My thoughts on that are around animal health: less walking, better calfrate because less stress, and if you get the right herd, there are herds around doing nearly as well as twice-a-day.”
“I’ve just finished judging the trainee section of the Dairy Industry awards in Taranaki,” adds Belinda
“and just seeing their enthusiasm, it’s awesome! We’ve mentored some young people together, and we want to encourage people to realise that the pathway might be different to land ownership but it’s still there.” “It’s a good industry,” says Ben.
“We come from humble beginnings with no money and we were able to work our way up to buy our own farm. Sure it’s a lot of work but the rewards are there if you want them.”
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