Sharemilkers urged to 'look the boss over'

Taranaki sharemilking leaders are urging prospective sharemilkers to undertake due diligence before they sign a contract.

Sharemilkers applying for new contracts were within their rights to ask a farm owner for references, said Paul Davidson, a member of Federated Farmers' sharemilkers section national executive.

Davidson, who is the former Taranaki Federated Farmers sharemilkers' chairman, was Taranaki Sharemilker of the Year in 2009 with his wife, Lorette Astwood-Davidson.

Davidson said sharemilkers could also ask farmers if they could speak to former employees.

"Sharemilkers can follow the same process as farmers undertake on them. There's no reason why you can't do background checks."

Unfortunately, sharemilkers wanted jobs so badly they were willing to risk taking them without due diligence.

"They need to take a step back and do background checks."

Sharemilkers seeking a new position should sit down with the farm owner and go through each clause of the contract.

"Then they should take it away and seek advice - from consultants, other farmers, other sharemilkers, from lawyers."

Davidson said spending $1000 on advice about a contract was "small bikkies" in relation to the $500,000 investment required by a 50/50 sharemilker on a 200-cow farm.

He advised sharemilkers to make notes in their diaries of all conversations they had with the farm owners. "You can't remember a conversation you had four weeks ago. Make a diary note and you've got a record."

It was also worth taking photographs. For example, the farmer might say he wanted a fence fixed. A diary note of that conversation, a follow-up note recording when the fence was fixed, and a photo of the repair provided a substantial record.

Taranaki Federated Farmers sharemilkers' chairman Michael Prankerd said sharemilkers should ensure the farm and the farm owner fitted their level of expectation.

Sharemilkers looking at a new position should ask the farm owner for names of referees and should check their ability to work with people.

"If the farm owner is going to be difficult, that's usually something that can be found out."

He advised sharemilkers to look elsewhere if they could see the position was not suitable.

Most farm owners used the organisation's contract, which was tried and true.

The more in-depth the contract, the more open the relationship could be.

Prankerd said it was vital sharemilkers understood the contract they were signing.

He suggested notes be taken at all meetings between the farm owner and the sharemilker and signed afterwards.

"Every time you talk, you're in a business relationship. Most business meetings are minuted so there's no reason not to take minutes," he said.

Taranaki Daily News