In just 4 years, the Crutchley family from Kyeburn, Central Otago, have completely transformed the profitability and sustainability of their 6121 Ha Shortlands Station at the north end of the Maniatoto Plain.
“Throughout the 2000’s we were told we were a high performing farm business, but there was never any spare cash around to achieve what we wanted to achieve,” says David Crutchley. “This was a bit of a worry as we have 3 adult children who are all passionate about the farm and the future and it was getting very difficult to see a way forward. Not only that, Glenis and I wanted to be able to extract ourselves from the business when the time was right – succession has been, and is, incredibly important.”
In 2010, David discovered Growfarm® and immediately saw the opportunity to drive the business to a whole new level. “I knew we needed a system because our “seat of the pants” operating up until then had just not been working. I could see that Growfarm® offered not only a structured process and outstanding support, but they had a unique way of analysing our business that made everything so clear. We could easily learn why we were or weren’t profitable and we could forecast the profitability of any livestock option we were considering. We were in!”
A year or so prior to this the Crutchley family had already engaged some very smart people and systems in terms of healthy, balanced soils and high meat yielding animal genetics. It was just a case of completing the team with the help they needed in business decision making and farm profit systems.
“Once we had our actual and forecasted farm data into ProfitLIVE at the beginning, we could immediately see where we were creating profit and where we weren’t. Quite frankly we had large parts of our business limiting our results so we made some quick and solid decisions then and there. Our sheep were doing OK but had more potential. Our breeding cow policy and our bull finishing policy were drastically altered, as were relative stocking rates through the year, especially in the winter. Timing is very important and in the Maniatoto you have to have flexibility in your farming system. We had very little flexibility.”
Many other changes were made including wintering dairy cows and heifers at a specific period as part of their pasture renovation programme, and the finishing of store lambs without compromising their breeding flock (but only if they have opportunity pasture wise to do so). Instead of typically wintering 13 500 stock units, Shortlands only carried 9000 stock units in later winter and early spring. Carrying capacity is based entirely on the amount of feed the property can grow in a season and the livestock mix is juggled according to its ability to convert feed profitably.
Seventy percent of the Dry Matter eaten is assigned to capital stock and the remaining thirty percent is left uncommitted so they always have feed left for trading livestock, with numbers changing month to month according to the season. “This also allows us to account for harsh climatic events which happen quite frequently here. That flexibility is crucial.”
Sons and daughters in law, Charles and Tash, and James and Liane, farm three properties in the family business, while David oversees the operation and helps out where needed. Daughter Zara (a rural valuer) is heavily involved in governance of the business. “Being on the Growfarm® System is really a no-brainer. My boys and I know ahead of time if any opportunities are likely to make profit for us. Just one decision early on eliminated the Growfarm® fees that year!”
The Crutchley family now have a very positive vision for their future with a succession plan that provides options for all. “We thoroughly recommend that if anyone seriously wants to create solid positive cash flow from your farm business, get in touch with Brendon and Kara at Growfarm®. They know what it takes and will help you, just as they have helped us.”