Mid Canterbury farm manager Darryl Oldham has taken out the 2022 Rabobank Management Project Award, a business management prize for up-and-coming farmers.
Selected from a group of New Zealand’s most progressive farmers – graduates of the 2021 Rabobank Farm Managers Programme (FMP) – Oldham was recognised for his business management project, which highlighted how he had utilised the lessons from the programme in his role as farm manager on the 200-ha farming operation he runs in partnership with his wife Anna, and parents Peter and Gael.
The Oldhams’ farming partnership is located in Westerfield near Ashburton.
As the farm manager, Oldham is involved in all the day-to-day aspects of running the business which grows cereals, small seeds, peas, maize for silage, and fodder crops for finishing lambs.
Oldham said his management project assessed the viability of converting all or part of the farming operation to sheep milking.
“Incorporating lessons from the FMP, I looked at the key financial performance indicators for the current system, including with a sheep milking unit added,” he said.
“To do this, I designed a business plan with conversion costs and gross margins to generate some financial information that could be used as performance indicators in the event sheep milking was introduced.”
Oldham said he also looked at what adding sheep milking to the farming system would do to the farm’s environmental footprint.
“I spoke with a number of other farmers who are sheep milking to get a feel for the environmental impact, and the initial analysis suggested sheep milking would have a similar or lower environmental impact than our existing farming activity,” he said.
While his analysis highlighted there were several merits to the sheep milking option, Oldham said the partnership had decided not to add the sheep milking unit at this point in time.
“The sheep milk processing plant that was planned to open in the area later this year has met with delays, and with this factory not expected to open until next year – and no other factory nearby to collect sheep milk – the conversion didn’t make sense right now. My analysis also found no strong financial advantage for going down the sheep milking route for our business, with the forecast profitability largely in line with that of our existing operation,” he said.
“However, we’ll continue to analyse the feasibility of adding sheep milking into our farming system and, if we can find a way to increase the yield of milk per sheep, we may well go down this path at some stage in the future.”
- By Pat Deavoll