Business lessons bolster resilience

Business lessons bolster resilience

If commitment is a recipe for success then South Island West Coasters Ethan and Jessica Liddell take the cake.
First time entrants in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards, the couple, both aged 27, were announced runners up in the region’s Share Farmer of the Year competition, gathering merit awards for human resources, health and safety and farm recording and productivity, along the way.
The Blackball couple are 21% sharemilkers for Ethan’s parents, Sue and John Liddell, on their 550cow, 210ha property.
Ethan says he and Jess were encouraged to enter the awards by the local rep to help make numbers up. Once entered he and Jess really ‘knuckled down and took it very seriously’.
“It was our first high payout year as sharemilkers and we thought by entering we might learn something on the business side about how to maximise our profits going forward,” explains Ethan.
“We learned a lot about our own business and the financials by going through it all before the judges turned up.”
He says that he and Jess felt they had missed their opportunity to get an award placing when a scheduled judging day was cancelled due to a cyclone hitting the Coast.
On the evening the Awards were announced Ethan and Jess were sitting with Ethan’s parents at the Ravensdown table.
“We thought, oh well, if we get one merit award we’ll be more than happy. When we managed to get three merit awards we thought – oh well, that’s us done. Then to get second place – well it was quite overwhelming really. Mum and dad were over the moon. It’s not the sort of thing that we would normally go and do – we’re a bit shy.”
Ethan says meeting new people, discussing farming methods and learning new and different ways of doing things were positive outcomes of the competition process.
As well as fine tuning their farming practices the couple are now much more aware of the business side and their financials, ensuring a robust cost/ benefit analysis is carried out before any capital expenditure is made. Both Jess and Ethan come from dairy farming backgrounds, meeting when they were 15 year olds at school.
With three children aged between 10 and 3, the couple has worked hard to get where they are today.
Upon leaving school, Ethan worked for a couple of local contractors for seven years doing long hours well into the night doing a mix of hay, balage and general agricultural contracting. Jess spent her time doing morning and evening relief milking.
Six years ago an opportunity arose to move back onto the Liddell family farm when the 50/50 sharemilker left. Starting off as farm managers, Ethan and Jess moved to lower order three seasons ago, just in time for the reduced dairy payout.

Business lessons bolster resilience
Ethan and Jessica Liddell, sharemilkers at Blackball, near Greymouth, were runners-up in the West Coast-Top of the South Dairy Industry Awards, as well as gathering a swathe of merit awards. Team Liddell-Ayden, Leah and Renae.

“The first year we went sharemilking it was a $3.80 payout and we’d budgeted on $6.00. We’d bought 62 cows the first year and another 20 the following year so the lower payout really impacted on us.”
Perseverance, commitment and hard work have paid off and the business lessons learned from the competition have bolstered their resilience and sustainability.
“Our future goals are to go 50/50 in the next couple of years and then to eventually take the farm over. It may happen earlier depending on my parents retirement plans,” says Ethan.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…

  • Tasman Agriculture Rural
  • West Coast Ag Contractors Ltd
  • Betta Electrical
  • Trans West Freighters 2011
  • RB Foster Contracting

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