Owners, family play part in growth

Owners, family play part in growth
Farm view of Kaiwhio Dairies at Wharepapa South, near Te Awamutu.

One farm, one herd, three sheds is how Nathan and Vanessa McCluskie are building up a sizable dairy business in an equity partnership.
Based at Wharepapa South, south-east of Te Awamutu, the couple first started working for their equity partners Rolly and Karen Saunders around 10 years ago.
At the time they were employed as contract milkers on a new conversion milking 500 cows for four years.
They are now equity partners with the Saunders in Kaiwhio Dairies milking 1050 cows. Kaiwhio Dairies employs two managers and two farm assistants.
When a neighbouring farm came up for sale Kaiwhio Dairies seized the opportunity for growth and Nathan and Vanessa convinced Vanessa’s parents, Trevor and Vivien Appleby, to move from the South Island to be closer to the grandkids and purchase the farm.
Kaiwhio Dairies leases the land off the Applebys. This coming season Kaiwhio Dairies will employ a contract milker and start milking 300 cows on this farm.
As the business has grown Nathan and Vanessa have had to switch from a focus on managing cows to managing people.
Nathan takes the role of operations manager over the business while Vanessa takes the busy roles of full time mum to the couple’s four young children and calf rearer, AB and the bookwork.
“The key thing is getting the right staff and forming a team that works well together,” says Nathan.
“We run a roster of nine days on, three days off, six days on and two days off year-round. This helps keep people fresh and gives them the time they need for themselves.”
Nathan and Vanessa both grew up on farms – Nathan on a dairy and beef unit at Ruapuki near Raglan, and Vanessa on a small block at Kurow in the South Island.
When he left school Nathan completed an agriculture course at polytech and spent time working on various farms.
He met Vanessa overseas and they returned to New Zealand and worked on dairy farms including two years as contract milkers. Nathan says the Saunders have played an important part in the rapid growth of their business.
While the Saunders leave Nathan and Vanessa to get on with the job Rolly takes charge of the 450ha drystock area which supports the dairy farms and runs all of the young stock.

Owners, family play part in growth
Vanessa McCluskie with calf club pet Daisy.

Nathan expects the new block of land to produce around 110,000 kilograms of milk solids next season with an overall target over the whole business of 450,000 kilograms.
Nathan and Vanessa’s children ‘help’ on the farm and enjoy the rural life: Ella, 11, Abby, 9, Sam, 8 and Barker, 6. Nathan and Vanessa’s overall goal is farm ownership but they are quite happy where they are.
“Having three blocks of land all on the same road and the great relationship we have with the Saunders we’ll stay here and keep doing what we’re doing at the moment.”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…

  • Comins Contracting Ltd
  • Ron Russo Bulk Spreading

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