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Game keeper takes a punt on dairy

Game keeper takes a punt on dairy
Waikato Federated Farmers dairy chair Ben Moore.

From English Game Keeper to dairy farmer, Ben Moore is making the most of an opportunity he and his wife Lizzy were given to farm their own slice of heaven.Hailing from Hampshire, an hour’s drive south of London, Ben developed an early love for the countryside on his grandparent’s farm.

Early involvement in hunting with hounds evolved into work as a Game Keeper and Wildlife Management Eleven years ago that work led to a job offer as Game Keeper on a pheasant shoot on a large estate in Rotorua that released 10,000 pheasants.Ultimately it was also the trigger for a new life in New Zealand.While in New Zealand Ben met Lizzy and when his working Visa expired and he returned to the United Kingdom the couple maintained contact.

“I returned to New Zealand to catch up with Lizzy for a couple of weeks and during that time we got engaged. I returned to UK, finished contracting work I was doing there and came back to New Zealand again. Initially I worked on a station in Taupo that did a lot of contracting, driving trucks and grass harvesting.”

Eight years ago Ben and Lizzy married and Ben took a 2IC role on an 800-cow forestry conversion in Tokoroa.“We did a season there before offered an opportunity to go 50/50 sharemilking on Lizzy’s parents farm in Okoroire. So Lizzy and I sold all our worldly possessions to buy 330 cows and took the opportunity.”

The small farming community of Okoroire in the Waikato sits between Matamata and Tirau. The farm that Ben and Lizzy moved onto was 100 hectares of fl at to rolling farmland, well planted in native trees.Two years after taking the opportunity, another opportunity arose when the neighbouring 45-hectare property came up for sale.

“We were at the stage where we either moved away to a bigger job or we bought the farm across the road and leased Lizzy’s parents farm. We decided to do the latter. We did that for a few reasons – one it’s a family farm that has been in the family for two generations and we’re the third, and we have a big tie with the farm.”

Reflecting upon the opportunity, Ben says it was a significant move on the part of the Lizzy’s parents, Tony and Sally Wilding.“Even though they’re our cows, Tony and Sally were taking on a guy who really only had one year’s dairy experience to run their farm.

I mean I had never even done AB. It was quite a big risk from their point of view that gave us the opportunity to make it work.”While Ben and Lizzy’s lease agreement with the Wilding’s is for seven years with a right of renewal, the couple aim to buy the farm at the conclusion of the lease period.

With an underpass built the year the neighbour’s farm was bought, both farms are run together.An increased herd of 430 cows are milked through a shed on the leased farm, while a much older shed on the neighbouring property has been converted to a calf shed.Lizzy has a full time role with Dairy NZ as a consulting officer running discussion groups, assisting with on-farm issues and helping to set budgets.

“Lizzy’s job off-farm has been hugely important to us as it helps minimise the personal drawings from the farm business.”Four years ago Ben was elected to the role of Matamata Federated Farmers Chair and two years ago accepted the position of Waikato Federated Farmers dairy chair – a role that puts him on the National Dairy Executive. Not a naturally political person, Ben says he just wants to give back to the industry that has been very good to him.

“A lot of people moan on the golf course and down at the pub but a lot of it is misinformed information. So if you’re going to moan you need to have a general understanding of what you’re moaning about.”

Ben and Lizzy now have two young children. Henry 4 and Arabella 3. Already loving life on the farm, the two proudly wear their Redbands to daycare and around town.Perhaps Henry and Arabella will be the fourth generation on the family farm.

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