Succession, staffing, thorny issues for Northland farmer
At 62 years of age, Northland dairy farmer, Richard Dampney should be looking at slowing down, but dealing with employment problems means he doesn’t have a lot of options other than doing it himself or switching to beef.
Richard and his wife Bev, live on 690ha in Otaua, 15 km west of Kaikohe, running two dairy farms and are equity partners in a 206ha, self-contained farm in Ruawai with Dale Campbell and their son Jon.
Up until June last year they had a 50/50 sharemilker taking care of one of the dairy blocks.
Unfortunately, during his three years on the farm production rates kept dropping. Working on 260ha, milking 550 cows, the farm was struggling to reach 150,000kgs/MS.
“We had previously done 180,000kgs/MS on that farm before the sharemilker turned up,” Richard says. Their smaller dairy farm, milking 330 cows, was easily hitting 150,000kgs/MS at that time.
“The sharemilker didn’t live on the farm; he didn’t have good staff and wasn’t interested in implementing any new systems. He was running the farm as a system 1 and we run the other farm as a system 4 farm.
“We had everything in place for it to be a system 3 or a system 4 farm but he wasn’t interested in doing anything.
“The young people coming through are not interested in actually working, they all want to be the boss and not get their hands dirty.
“ Minimum wage is just going crazy and most farmers my age that I know, if they got a reasonable offer for their farm would cash up and go. The other option is they just shut down the dairy and go into beef.
“The scary part is, back in 1989 when I became a farmer I was considered a young dairy farmer. Sadly, 30 years later in 2019 I’m still ‘a young dairy farmer’, and that’s the problem, the age of farmers has got that damn old that it’s not healthy.”
As a shearing judge, shearing commentator and a keen hunter and tramper, Richard wants more time to get off the farm to start enjoying some of his hobbies but finding someone to take over the daily operations is a hassle.
Though Richard isn’t getting any younger he is taking it all in his stride and it’s not the first challenge he’s faced in his farming career having bought his first farm in 1979 at 23 and surviving the 80s with interest rates that reached 28 per cent.
For now, he’s making it work with the help of Bev, his second son Alan and some full time employees as well as reducing the number of cows being milked to cut back on labour. “We have also made one dairy farm fully autumn calving and one fully spring calving.”
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