Ownership adds layer of management

Ownership adds layer of management
Keen sportsmen Joshua, Matthew and Ethan Campbell hose down the yard after milking. The Campbell’s feed pad

Two years after realising their goal of farm ownership, Aaron and Fiona Campbell have also realised farm ownership isn’t the end of the line when it comes to goal setting. Aaron says his challenge now is to ensure he and his family are achieving and maintaining a preferable work-life balance.
“There is a lot more work in farm ownership than I realised,” he says. “There are a lot of compliance issues to deal with. We started autumn calving last season and we’ve built a feed pad.
“We’ve come off a very wet 15 months, and we had to work out how the effluent from the feed pad is going to go straight into the effluent pond, making sure we were compliant with environmental regulations.”
A system five operation, the Campbell farm requires some staff to be all rounders, as well as some with specialist skills. “It’s been hard to achieve that and we’re still trying to get the right people to balance our system,” Aaron says.
“We always come back to what we are trying to achieve, what our business goals are, what our family goals are, and making sure there is time for our family.”
The Campbells are used to working hard, and when they started their 50/50 sharemilking days 12 years ago, Aaron says they documented their goals.
“Our third child was on the way and we wanted to make sure that family always came first,” he says. “That’s been the biggest issue for our farming careers, because as sharemilkers, our mantra was ‘whatever it takes, we’ll make it happen’. We always made sure the farm business was being looked after, and we sacrificed our weekends and holidays and things like that.”
Today the Campbell’s three boys are 10, 12, and 14, and they help out on the farm and in the shed. Off farm they are all in different sporting rep teams, and have a lot of other stuff going on. “The boys are useful on the farm,” Aaron says.
“We tell them if they want to enjoy continuing to play sport we will make sure that can happen. We’re wanting to make sure while we’re busy doing farm work, we are also enjoying our family time and for me, that’s been a hard thing to achieve.”
The Campbell’s farm at Bunnythorpe, Palmerston North, is 93ha and the couple has leased another 70ha area since last season.
Cow numbers have increased from 300 to 400, and the extra land is used as a support block for their replacements which used to all be grazed off farm. “Now we are looking after them ourselves, and it’s a lot of extra work,” Aaron says.
“Our business is growing at an exponential rate, and it has been a bit of a learning curve.” The cows are thriving and since the Campbells took over the property they sharemilked for three years prior, per cow production has sat at 500kgs milksolids.
The Campbells supply to Open Country Dairy, after Fonterra pulled its 10 year payment plan off the shelf.
“I’ve always liked the ideology of a cooperative,” Aaron says. “Open Country Dairy has been really good, very honest, very open, and very supportive of winter milking and what we are trying to achieve here.”
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