Agribusiness project is a classified success

Last updated 05:00 09/02/2014
Westview farm managers and equity partners Shane Carroll and Nicola Shadbolt.
Fairfax NZ

STARTED IT ALL: Westview farm managers and equity partners Shane Carroll and Nicola Shadbolt.

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Agribusiness

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When young couple Shane Carroll and Nicola Shadbolt wanted to find equity partners to help them realise their dream of managing a big farming operation they put an advertisement in the newspaper.

"If you've got the money, we've got the expertise - let's get together," they said.

It worked. And 27 years later they are equity partners and managers of a diverse agribusiness in Manawatu's picturesque Pohangina Valley.

Westview Farm is a combination of agribusinesses shaped by equity partners, farmer-managers and employees on the ground.

Carroll and Shadbolt, his wife and business partner who is well known as a Massey University professor of farm management and a Fonterra director, are the managers and part-owners of an organisation that runs dairy, deer, beef and sheep units.

Originally, the couple thought that over time they would buy their partners out as they left, but instead the farm business has expanded with the original partners still in place.

Now they have begun to think about succession - how it will affect the farm management and the non-farming equity partners, who include an economist and funding managers.

Apart from Westview, the home farm nestled against the Ruahine Ranges' western flanks, the partnership owns 41.2 per cent of another equity partnership in Ashhurst - a 530-cow dairy farm which it runs under a 50-50 sharemilking contract. There is also a 50-50 sharefarming contract on a beef and lamb finishing farm near Cheltenham.

The farms have 1986ha effective between them and a total of 2501ha - 1731ha freehold and the rest leasehold.

Their beef cattle are the progeny from the dairy farms' friesian/jerseys crossed with herefords.

Their original romney ewes have been crossed with coopworth to aid lamb survival. They have also had an infusion of finn at one point. Romney rams now come from Holly Farm near Marton. In 2006 they received top prize in the Horizons Ballance Environment Awards and also prizes for best livestock farm, best dairy farm and for the integration of trees.

The premise now is to finish all animals produced on the farms, Shadbolt says.

"For example, the male calves from the dairy farm go from being raised on waste milk, to being raised as youngsters on this hill country farm, to being grown out on the finishing farm as two-year-olds."

A case in point is the "Taranaki tigers", Carroll says. These are striped dairy-hereford crosses. "They are perceived as not being a good animal in the store markets, so if you rear them, you are committed to finishing them."

Shadbolt adds: "You can't do that unless you have all the dots joined."

She describes the closure of the breeding-finishing system as "the last piece of the puzzle".

Before, the farm was not able to finish stock. Now, the milk platforms are utilised to help finish all the young animals from the dairy farms and the sheep and beef units .

Technology helps them keep track of livestock - "as you grow more complex you've got to have ways of capturing information".

Carroll uses a programme called iFarmer on his iPad.

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"Before, everything was written on the back of a cigarette packet or in my notebook, or before that it was in my mind," he says.

WESTVIEW FARM

6194 sheep
1254 cattle
434 red deer
1339 dairy cattle
75.5ha forestry

Crops Maize, turnips, kale, fodder beet, summer brassicas, chicory and plantain. New this year are "spray and pray" crops, swedes and brassicas, on the hills.

- Taranaki Daily News

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