Treating staff well is important for the Marshalls of Rongotea, so it was a relief for them when they found a payroll system that worked for them. Jackie Harrigan reports.

Virginia and Kyle Marshall have been working two sharemilking jobs side by side on opposite sides of the road at Rongotea in the Manawatu for the past 16 years, and while the situation gets complicated, the couple have found plenty of strategies to simplify the operations and save time and labour.

The cow sheds on either side of the 139-hectare property are both small and old but the couple have invested in good genetics and run a high BW crossbred herd and target 150,000kg milksolids (MS) each season.

Virginia is a seventh generation Rongotea farmer and laughs at the irony of the fact that her sawmilling great great great grandfather cut down all the trees in the district and she says her goal is to replace some of them!

The couple have had very long term staff and understand the importance of treating them well.

“One of our staff members was with us for 10 years and another recently moved on after 14 years.”

Virginia and Kyle Marshall.

They put a lot of emphasis on making systems and processes run well for their staff – saving work and saving time and in the process enhancing their mental health. A couple of years ago Virginia felt she was struggling to keep up with changes in the HR space in regards to their team members, and says she realised the changes would not stop.

“Time to outsource it, I thought.

“Up until then I did it all manually and by gut instinct but it was getting more and more complex.

“Who would’ve thought that every week was not seven days long – there were lots of things changing and I thought as business owners we really needed to be more professional.

“I didn’t have the time or the inclination to keep up with all the legalities and changes to the minimum wage, new leave entitlements, new public holidays… the rules and regulations were ever increasing and I didn’t have the time or the capacity or interest to keep up,” she confesses.

“I also felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants and was well out of my depth – so it was a relief to find a helper that made it all easy and who I could trust was doing it properly.”

She was pretty impressed with the comprehensiveness of the payroll programme she first found – it was comprehensive, the language really resonated with her and the website had a great understanding and knowledge of the agri industry.

All of the maths, regulations and the compliance involved in paying team members is hidden in the back end of the PaySauce programme and Virginia says it was simple to set up, especially with the help of the “excellent” Help Desk.

“We pay for the service per pay run and it only takes five minutes every pay run – which is fortnightly for us – it used to take a lot longer when I was doing it manually.”

Along with saving time, Virginia says the reassurance she gets from knowing the team are being paid fairly, promptly and compliantly is definitely worth the cost.

“Our staff are incredibly important – and we know that if we look after them, then they will be happy and look after us.”


Virginia can’t believe how much time she and husband Kyle used to spend writing cheques, stuffing envelopes, licking stamps when paying the bills at the start of their sharemilking business.

“Now we use internet banking and Farm Focus, and it’s a huge time saver.

“From paying invoices online through to confirming the pre populated fields and the automated coding when doing our GST, online accounting packages are a huge time saver.”


Once-A -Day milking is one of the strategies Kyle thought was a great time saver and labour saver on one half of their farm. Geographically split by a road, the couple run two operations, but cows used to be arbitrarily in the early calving mob or later calvers.

But when they decided to go OAD with their smaller herd of 160 cows, the couple called upon the LIC production OAD index to give them a steer on which cows would better suit the milking regime.

“We found 168 cows that were more suited – including the two-year heifers – and went cold turkey with a new worker at the start of the season.

“OAD just gives us so much flexibility, a couple of hours each afternoon are freed up to do other things and it means heaps to our new worker – he has full custody of his two grandchildren, with OAD he can milk at 9am when he has put them on the school bus in the morning. It means heaps to him and his ability to work and also for his mental health.”

Kyle says the cow condition is up by 0.5 of a BCS and so they are milking the herd longer this season. Despite milking OAD, the two herds are on track to produce their second best ever milk production – although he concedes the OAD herd is down and the TAD herd is up.

Inspired by friends extolling the virtues of the OAD system, Virginia says while the shed costs are down and less effluent is being created at the shed, the real win for them is in mental health for the team.

The couple list other time and labour saving tools as the MINDA APP. “I can check cows records from my phone down at the shed” and the Fonterra APP “great to be notified of grades and be informed on when the tanker is coming so we don’t waste time waiting for it.”