Friday, July 1, 2022

Leasing leads to early farm ownership

After only four years of leasing a farm, Gisborne’s Glenn Prebble has bought his own place.

Glenn, who hails from a farming family at Dunback near Palmerston, Otago, has dreamed of owning his own farm since he left Waitaki Boys High School.

Now the 37-year-old has only a few months left before his lease at the Seymour’s Whangara farm, Wensleydale, ends.

He and his partner, Carolyn McDonald, have recently bought a 400ha farm, Tawa, halfway up the Whakarau road to Motu, 60km northwest of Gisborne.

The narrow winding road to the new farm might have put other buyers off, but Glenn and Carolyn are undaunted.

Nick Seymour, who owns Wensleydale with his wife, Pat, is impressed with Glenn’s progress.

“We knew his parents well through farm forestry, and liked Glenn when he visited us with his mother Heather, who told us that he was hoping to lease some land.

“Two years later we decided there was a need for change.”

Nick had farmed Wensleydale for 46 years, and they did not want to sell the property. Leasing was a good option to give a young man a chance of owning his own livestock and becoming his own boss, Nick said.

“We are proud of Glenn’s management of the property, his honesty, and his achievement of purchasing his own farm so quickly.

“There are no stepping stones in our industry because all our stepping stone farms are in trees now, but Glenn has helped himself; he has done well. He works long hours, and doesn’t waste money or keep things on hand.”

Glenn went shepherding when he left school, first at Kiatoa, Waikouaiti, then at Mt Linton in Southland. Then he headed north, first working at Okare Station, Ohuka, in northern Hawke’s Bay, then at the nearby Norana Station when Pete McCarthy managed the farm.

He then managed Norana for five years before he moved in 2008 to Wensleydale, which was an opportunity with total control over the stock and decisions.

“I gained a lot of experience learning what to do and what not to do before coming here, and I wasn’t spending my money.

“It had always been my ambition to have a farm, but I thought I would never get there and I would have to stay managing.”

At first Glenn worked for Nick for four months, in which time they nailed down the lease. It was a five-year lease with a right of renewal for another five years. The lease, over 600ha of the property, was based on a stock unit rate.

Nick and Pat retain 212ha made up of six woodlots, plantation forest and Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenants, and continue to live on Wensleydale, which is celebrating its centenary next year.

“Nick ran 5500 stock units so I pay for 5500 stock units but run 5000, so that side didn’t work that well, but certainly stock performance has been good.”

On the plus side for Glenn, he bought all the Wensleydale stock at June 30, 2008.

In the previous four months he was able to sort and sell the stock he didn’t want to buy. Then on the day they each used a livestock agent and had an independent umpire to value all the stock.

“The timing for me was good. Stock prices were poor that year on the back of a drought in Waikato, which dragged cattle and lamb store prices down.

“The low stock value was good for me but not so good for Nick.”

In the four years since then the stock have doubled in value.

Since then Glenn has been reducing ewe numbers by 700 to 1500, and increasing cattle numbers. He also lambs hoggets, so has almost the same number of lambs each year. He changed the sheep breed to facial eczema-resistant Coopworths, and he buys the rams from Edward Sherriff at Pine Park, Marton.

The cattle-to-sheep ratio is now 60:40 in favour of cattle. Most of the cattle are bulls, and he fattens heifers and steers as well.

At the moment the pastures are starting to dry out, so it’s time to begin offloading bulls – a great way of releasing pressure and getting a good return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glenn says the main things he has learned on his way to farm ownership is that you have to be prepared to take a risk.

“And you need some cash up front. Somehow save some money; you can’t have nothing to your name. And the bank likes a budget.”

For budgets he uses Cash Manager Rural on-line, which he says is “awesome”.

“To get into Tawa, we had to move quite quickly because there were other offers on the table. Cash Manager is such an easy programme to use, so I did up some budgets and emailed them through to my bank manager over the weekend.”

Glenn had to use his stock as equity to get into the farm.

Because he comes from a farming background, people imagined his parents must have helped finance him into the property, he says. They have helped, but only with guaranteeing a small part of the loan.

 

Future mapped out

Glenn does as much of the farm work himself as possible.

That’s all the stock work, crutching and dagging, and almost all the fencing. Last year he employed a fencer to help out.

After a year of the lease he bought a tractor and post-rammer, but it was a cheap tractor, a Fiat 680 70HB 4WD from 1985. He has a quad and a two-wheeler, the latter a cheap and old XR200 1997 model.

Last year he traded in his quad bike and bought a new one. “It is my main tool so I keep it updated and in good condition.”

He also has a set of basic fencing tools, a chainsaw and a fert spreader for the back of the tractor. “It was not a necessity; it was cheap at the field days.”

Glenn buys calves on contract – this year 150 100kg calves came from one rearer. “If you get bits and pieces from everywhere the quality may not be as good. This way I get a guaranteed supply and one line of good calves; you definitely get it back at the other end.”

Heading into the new farm the priorities are to first clear some debt. “It will obviously be a challenge.”

He will be developing 150ha of easier land ideal for farming bulls. It’s a well-subdivided and fenced farm with good infrastructure including a Woolaway shed. The house is double-storeyed and built at the turn of the 19th century, mainly from native timbers milled on the farm. “It’s quite impressive and really well-maintained.”

And right next door to the house is a 7ha QEII National Trust block of bush.

“It’s an awesome spot,” he says.

Glenn already has his future mapped out: it’s to double the size of the farming business by adding more land in future, either by buying or leasing.

“You have to believe you can do it. A lot of people are doom and gloom, but there are still ways of getting on to your own farm.

“Without the support of Nick and Pat who gave me this opportunity I wouldn’t be in this position now and I really appreciate them.”

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