By Matthew Zonderop
Matamata farmer, Matthew Zonderop,
reflects on a tough dairy season in the Waikato
90% planning and 10% execution.. isn't that the rule? I'm sure I read it somewhere.
Well, that rule certainly went out the door this season… ppfftt the door, hell, someone lifted the roof off, knocked the walls down and left you there standing with nothing but the clothes on your back.
Despite the record payout, the spiralling costs didn't leave much in the tank, or in my case. the bank. In my farming career, I've never seen costs increase so fast and so high. To give you an idea, some of the cost increases varied between 30-60 and 200%! And let's not start on fertiliser(s).
To borrow another piece of wisdom, ‘don't give me a problem give me a solution', we dried off earlier than normal (solution 1) to preserve cow condition and try to build up some grass cover ahead of us (solution 2), but a 25% reduction over the last two months of milk production took its toll. So we are working on more solutions during the dry period, together with staff, as we need to get our heads in the right place going into calving, our busiest, and often the most stressful time of the year for us.
Combined with the extremely dry conditions and rising costs for myself and the wider farm community it's never been more important than now for us to look out for each other, and if I'm honest never have I felt like the walls closing in on me as they have done in the last four to five weeks.
With our feed levels declining and grass levels so low, we are now at the point of selling capital stock (solution 3) to be able to cope over the next season and reduce the costs and perhaps cope with these drier conditions better. Other areas we will look at are going once a day to maintain cow condition (less walking means less energy used so holds condition better), different crop types and the solutions around fertiliser/sprays and their usage, the number of replacements we will rear, and even the possibility of e-bikes on the farm.
Getting off the farm and doing something that is a distraction for the weekend helps. I go fishing, and don't catch a lot, but I get to cool down on the water, recalibrate and come back with a better attitude each time. Chatting with our neighbours seems to be more commonplace now as not many of us have not been in this position before and we are finding that people are being more open and honest about their situation. It's a great sign that we are able to share our thoughts and issues we are all facing without feeling as if we have failed.
A positive sign even with the stress levels, the Figured team and my accountant can quickly assess our situation and together we can make the right decisions promptly. Managing your finances in times like this is mission-critical - once again these guys will help me get through another year.