The Rankins’ sharemilking contract is coming to an end. Trish Rankin tells of the deliberations on the family’s future.

Taranaki has had good weather this season to date, milk production is up, the cows are happy and the grass is growing well. The stress for us this season is knowing that our sharemilking contract is coming to an end as our owners move to a contract milker system. The topic at the dinner table that we spend the most time on is where to next?

Many out there will know ‘that’ feeling of not knowing where you will be living on June 1 next year. It is not just the family we have to find a home for, but our valued cows, pets and farming business. It is not a comfortable place to be.

There is often talk in rural communities about the ‘brain drain’ but here in Taranaki, with farm ownership such a big (perceived) step away from share farming (LOSM/Contract/HOSM), we have “progression and succession drain.”

Taranaki is prime dairy farming country. With little apparent opportunity to grow, sharefarmers move away from Taranaki to other regions that have cheaper land, bigger farms and more diverse share farming contracts.

Many in the Taranaki dairy sector seem to be in survival mode. Farms have been on the market and don’t sell. Sharemilkers spend an anxious year having to finish on one farm as their contract expires, not knowing where they will have to uproot their family to. Single farm owners know to grow they have to expand, but don’t have the capital/HR skills or desire to take on another business down the road.

Aging farm owners unable to sell may cease dairy farming altogether on the land, or run a skeleton operation. Opportunities for sharefarmers, single farm owners wanting to expand and farm owners wanting to exit the industry require support, advice and brokering. Equity partnerships, lease to buy, share farming models outside the norm (50/50) or farm owners leaving equity in are all possible win-win scenarios for the various stages of farmer’s businesses and appetite for risk. There is so much change in our sector, we need the best people in Taranaki to farm for and with us. For example: Towards a low emission economy (2050 Taranaki), reducing methane/GHG requirements (He Waka Eke Noa), promoting and improving freshwater (Fresh Water Policy), developing farm environment plans (FEPs) all while meeting the Dairy Tomorrow strategy 6 commitments can be and is everyday practice for many skilled sharefarmers who are unable to take the next step in their business growth due to high land prices and not meeting equity bank requirements.

We are looking forward to being creative in our way forward and hopefully by the time Christmas comes, we will have our next family farming business location finalised!