When opportunity knocks…
Leasing a 147-hectare dairy farm just outside of Pirongia is more than Euan and Mikki McLeod could have ever dreamed of for the next step in their dairying careers.Looking for the chance to progress from their management position on a 122-hectare farm at Taupiri back in 2017, the goal for Euan and Mikki was to move into 50:50 sharemilking or an equity partnership, depending on what opportunity presented itself.
Leasing a farm wasn’t on their radar but it’s a move they were extremely excited about and are settling into well after two seasons.
“The move is going really well,” says Euan. “We are enjoying it and we appreciate it being a lease as opposed to a 50:50 job.” The lease allows the McLeods to run their business how they want to run it, not having someone else dependant on the production for their income.
“With the lease, as long as we pay every month it doesn’t really matter how we do things, it gives us a lot more freedom.”The farm they are leasing is well known to the pair.
Euan worked as 2IC on the property for two years before he started his previous managing role. “We always had a really good relationship with the farm owners so, when they decided they wanted to lease the farm they gave us a shout.”Thankfully, the timing was just right, it was just a matter of convincing the banks that their new business venture had potential.
Euan says the knowledge they gained from entering and winning Waikato Dairy Farm Manager of the year in 2017 really helped them through the bank’s lending process and Mikki’s Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies, focused on farm management and agribusiness, helped push them over the line.
They’re currently milking 480, predominantly jersey cows, through a 26-aside herring-bone on a once a day(OAD) system.OAD milking is another bonus of entering into the lease says Euan.
“On a 50:50 you probably wouldn’t be allowed to go OAD due to the drop in production but we assessed it in the first season and there are a lot of factors on this farm that suggest it could be really successful on a OAD system. In the long run we believe it will be more profitable.”They made the switch at the start of this season and are already feeling encouraged by the benefits.
They’ve seen an improvement in cow condition and reproduction, and the drop in milk production hasn’t been as great as they had anticipated. “The signs at the moment are that it has been a good decision, so hopefully it’ll keep going that way.”With three young children, they’re enjoying the added flexibility the OAD system is offering as well.
Euan and Mikki employ two full time staff over calving season and have just one full-time team member after mating has finished. There have been many lessons learned since taking on the lease, including everything that comes with owning their own herd as well as the responsibility of running the whole farm, but they’re quickly finding their feet.
Euan says his focus now is to just keep progressing. “We didn’t for a second think we would be where we are now. Opportunities come and go and if a good one comes around you have to try and grab it, if you’re in a position to do so. We are lucky this one came around when it did.
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