Accountancy handy in the milking shed
For 26-year-old West Coast contract milker Carl Wilmshust, knowledge and development is a journey in which everything he does matters.
Two years ago, having completed his accountancy degree and registered as a chartered accountant working for a firm in Hokitika, Carl received a call from his dad inviting him back on the family farm.
It was June 2015. The previous farm workers had left and a storm had ripped through the property, leaving a wake of damaged sheds and numerous blown-down trees.
“I knew the practical side of milking cows, but had a lot to learn from Dad about pasture management.
We’re a good team and work well together.
We have weekly meetings to decide how the week is going to work…how we can get through as much work as possible, maximising efficiency.
He says it has been a fusion of injecting accounting expertise and hands-on practical farm management, efficiencies and cost-benefit analysis intertwined with getting the physical job done.
It’s a fusion that has worked well.
Carl and his partner, Anna, were runners-up for the 2017 West Coast Regional Share Farmer of the Year and gaining the business-performance Merit award.
The 160-hectare (effective) farm is in the heart of Jade County – Kowhitirangi, just outside Hokitka, rich in history and landscapes such as the Hokitika Gorge and its azure blue waters. It’s a beautiful location amidst rivers, lakes and native bush, a stone’s throw from the wild West Coast.
It is, of course, a rainforest and the farmland gets very wet.
“We get an average of 4.5 metres rainfall every year, so pasture utilisation can be a challenge,” says Carl.
“We’ve gone from a system two to a four, increasing production by 37 per cent.
There’s a real cost-benefit to the shift that has made money for Mum and Dad.”
Carl says the higher-input system has also improved mating because with better feed, the cows cycle better and are easier to get into calf.
He says this has resulted in a more condensed calving, more milk-days and fewer empties. Pasture management has been a big issue for Carl since moving back onto the farm.
A sacrifice paddock was used last year to minimise the impact of pugging, and this year a crop has been planted and will become the sacrifice paddock for the coming season.
A recently acquired pasture aerator helps drain excess moisture, and the cows are milked in two mobs to further minimise damage.
“It just means you don’t have to put 400 cows through one gateway,” he says.
“The other thing is that they don’t have to be in the shed as long. While one mob is moving out onto the feedpad, the other mob is entering the shed.”
Carl’s background as an accountant has come in handy with the preparation of accounts, GST PAYE, fuel-excise returns, budgeting and tax planning.
It has also been useful in preparing feed budgets. The farm is now up for sale.
If it sells, Carl and Anna will see out the next season as contract milkers.
If it does not, there could well be a fourth season. “I never wrote farming off,” says Carl.
“It was just the way it played out—going back wasn’t planned. I would definitely go back into accountancy with the advantage of having hands-on farming experience.”