Friday, July 1, 2022

Synlait Farms takes SI Farmer of Year title

The large multi-farm company Synlait Farms has won the Lincoln University Foundation’s South Island Farmer of the Year competition.

TOP OF THE SOUTH: Synlait Farms’ CEO Juliet Maclean with the South Island Farmer of the Year Award she accepted on behalf of the management team. Photo: Johnny Houston

A separate entity to Synlait processing, Synlait Farms compromises 13 farms covering 3900ha and is on track to produce 5.5million kgMS this season.

In a presentation to the judges, sponsors and members of the public, CEO Juliet Mclean outlined the six pillars of the Synlait business, saying they were cows, grass, profit, people, the environment and innovation.

She explained that monitoring and measuring was critical to the success of the business and data generated is used to drive farm management decisions. It is also used to satisfy the demands of around 100 shareholders who are used to receiving high quality information about the performance of their investments.

The company employs its own vets, a water manager, financial managers and a People and Performance manager who all bring a greater degree of expertise into the farm management team.

Chief Judge Bob Simpson said that while any of the competition’s four finalists could have won, it was Synlait’s blend of family-based traditional farming practices with the very best of modern corporate innovation and management systems that saw this multi-farm company stand out.

Maclean says the three Synlait founders, John Penno, Ben Dingle and herself all come from farming families and that’s how they work.

“Really that’s how we work at Synlait too; it’s just that our Synlait family farm is a lot bigger.

“In an owner-operated business, at the end of the day what you’ve achieved can be measured by your own efforts, but at the end of a Synlait day our success is measured by a large team of people,”

Synlait Farms’ farm managers meet together for a discussion group every month, but they are sent data every five days on pasture growth, milk production and how production is tracking compared to budget and the previous year’s results.

Maclean says there is high level of financial transparency within Synlait Farms and they need to have this in order to respond when the environment changes. “We need to be able to respond to changes, such as a fall in the pay-out, very quickly.”

The runners-up in the annual competition were Deane and Joanne Taylor from Ashburton.

The Taylors run a specialist mixed arable property growing a range of specialist seed crops. They also own and operate Latitude, a popular lifestyle magazine and are part-owners in a spray business with two other farmers.

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