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Couple combine numbers with hard work

Couple combine numbers with hard work
Frustrated by the lack of a merino-jersey option for their four children’s school uniforms, Carl and Tori Uren (left) set up their own project – Merino Wool for Schools. That was in 2012. After battling to stir interest amongst merino clothing companies, they found an enthusiastic partner in PGW Wool. They “got serious” a couple of years ago, and are now supplying more than 100 schools and a growing number of sports clubs and businesses.

Banks Peninsula farmer Carl Uren describes the path to farm ownership through leasing as “a bit of a long story”.

Six years ago Carl and wife Tory bought the 220-hectare Totara Point property in Le Bons Bay, on Banks Peninsula.

They have since added 165ha and now have 385ha under their ownership.

Carl’s “long leasing story” began about 10 years ago when the couple leased 800ha in Pigeon Bay, then then another 400ha near Akaroa.”

Then, in 2011, they leased a further 600ha in Le Bons Bay. “We bought our first block, the 220 hectares in Le Bons Bay, at the same time we leased that last (600ha) block,” says Carl The farm winters about 2500 cattle, 800 breeding ewes and 600 hoggets.

To facilitate the purchase of the 165ha block, the couple sold most of their capital stock at the time, but have replaced these with 900 cattle.

Grazing 1500 dairy heifers year round from May to May provides steady monthly cashflow which means there are no surprises when it comes to planning and budgeting.

“We know what all our set costs are,” says Carl. “Interest rates, lease payments and wages are locked in; it’s reasonably simple to work out if we can take on another block or buy another block.”

The grazing cost is calculated at $11 per cow a day with the expectation of their weight increasing by 650 grams a day.

“They come in at 200 kilograms and they go out at roughly 400kg to 420kg.”

The Urens’ path to ownership has involved setting goals that were challenging, but not unrealistic, says Carl “The whole idea of leasing was to build up some equity and build up a good cashflow business from leasing that could service debt on our own block.”

To achieve a profitable business capable of creating equity, good stock that could achieve the best possible prices needed to be a priority, says Carl. And this needed to be backed by good, oldfashioned hard work. “It’s all about getting started,” he says.

“If you don’t get started, then you’ve got nothing to grow on.” Surrounded by the sea, the volcanic cone of Banks Peninsula is dotted with bays around its edge.

The climate is neither too hot nor too cold through the year. The relatively even nature of the climate eliminates the need for break feeding or feeding out.

The Urens‘ blocks are about 30 minutes apart, and each hasits specific summer and winter climates. This offers an advantage for grazing stock as conditions change from one block to another.

Although there is the cost of transport, it is still “far cheaper” than buying in feed, which fits well with Carl’s philosophy of keeping the farming systems as simple as possible.

Responsibility for running a large, well spread farm business means attention to detail, particularly with livestock, is an ongoing focus for the couple.

This includes making sure stock are well fed and watered, are weighed regularly, and their health is closely monitored.

“Whether you think you are doing a good job or not, it will tell you on the scales,” says Carl.

“It’s really important to weigh our young stock because it gives you information you don’t get when you are shifting them around from day to day.”

“It’s easy to let things slip when you have a large number of animals, so we are focused on doing the little things properly. These are what make the farm tick.”

Ensuring the farm’s four staff, whose roles include stock management, fencing and general farm work, are well supported and doing their jobs well is also an important part of the equation, he says.

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