Budgeting keeps farm goals on track

When Geoff and Yvette Brown bought their Lockington dairy farm in Northern Victoria back in 2016, they set themselves some very specific goals.

One of them was to get in, work hard over the next decade and plan ahead for an early retirement.


The key to that success has been careful budgeting and shopping around for the best deal from processors. This is made even more important due to the fact they are a small stud herd (Royals Green Jerseys), milking 180 cows at their peak.


“When it comes to milk price it has always been about maximising the best price we can get because we know as a smaller farm, we start at a disadvantage,” Geoff says.


Always with an eye on production, the couple milk all year round – and investing in quality genetics has enabled them to build up the genetic merit of their herd over the last decade.


They find that herd testing helps with the bottom line and is Geoff’s most important budgeting tool.


“Not only do I get all the latest information about percentage of solids and up to date information regarding cell count, but it also helps with my own interest in breeding outcomes from a commercial perspective,” Geoff says.


Over the spring period, Geoff will milk three times a day. While he acknowledges this isn’t for everyone, he estimates it returns an extra 10 per cent minimum in production (over that time) and at high milk price of $10kg it has certainly been worth it.


“The cows have peaked higher, and our daily production is up 30 per cent – as small owner operators we always have to get the best out of everything we have,” Geoff says.


He adds that an extra 400-500 litres a day makes a big difference to the milk cheque over a month.


While Geoff has a background in dairy farming in New Zealand, Yvette was new to the industry back in 2016 and has always looked at the farm as a business first.


“Everyone runs their business differently. I watched my parents pay down debt as soon as possible and only buy what they could afford with cash and that philosophy has been passed down to me,” Geoff says.


The couple say a contracted milk price enables them to budget their milk income for the year. Good prices over the last couple of years has seen them tick off some of their big-ticket items, including outright purchase of a ute and tractor.


“At my age I have never been comfortable with debt, and it has always been our goal to finish farming without any,” Geoff says.


With a keen eye always on the budget, the couple only ever purchase what they need, and they would never buy something just to save on tax either – the milk cheque has always dictated their spending.


Water and feed remain key core costs and something they never skimp on.


As part of their whole farm plan, the couple enlist the help of contractors for anything outside of their day-to-day management.


“We contract out labour for things like fencing and silage making because we look at the time and money it would cost us versus paying someone for wages and it works for us,” Yvette says.


This year they were able to capitalise on the great season and for the first time grow all their own silage, saving money by having to source less fodder.


The couple firmly believe the dairy industry has enabled them to reach financial goals they never would have achieved had they remained working in their previous small businesses.


“We started out with 110 jersey cows and now we now grown our business to 180 cows and 120 young stock. We have weathered high water prices, low milk prices and everything else in between,” Geoff says.


“Our journey has always been about limiting risk and getting out without any debt at the end, and the dairy industry has been excellent.”


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