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Keeping track . . . North Otago farmers Louise, Mark and Nadine Jellyman use DairyBase information to monitor their progress. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

North Otago dairy farmers Mark and Louise Jellyman can vouch for the benefits of keeping good records.

It has helped the couple and their daughter, Nadine (12), progress from lower-order sharemilking to buying their own farm in McPhersons Rd, just south of the Waitaki River.

The Jellymans started out as lower-order sharemilkers in Taranaki, then became 50-50 sharemilkers on a 440-cow Taranaki farm. Later they moved to South Canterbury to a sharemilking position with twice as many cows.

To get a better understanding of what to expect, they sought information from DairyNZ – the industry body funded by farmer levies.

“When we came to the South Island we had no idea what it would be like down here,” Mrs Jellyman said.

“By at least looking at those DairyBase figures for the area, that gave us a really good handle on what to expect. It was a massive thing going from Taranaki down to here – a huge investment.”

Not only was the climate entirely different, but they also went from employing one person to as many as five.

The Jellymans’ next move was to a 50-50 sharemilking posting across the Waitaki on Seven Mile Rd, before buying their 100ha McPhersons Rd property.

“The vision has always been to buy a farm – we just plugged away at it and finally got there,” Mrs Jellyman said.

“We were fortunate in that three 100ha farms came on the market in the North Otago-South Canterbury area almost all at the same time – it was rare for farms that size to come on the market and in this location.

“We managed to secure the one we wanted, which is only 10km from where we were sharemilking – not far to move machinery and house contents.”

Mr and Mrs Jellyman both came from farming families. In the early stages of their own careers, they gathered as much information as they could by attending DairyNZ discussion groups and a DairyNZ Mark and Measure Strategy and Business seminar, as well as joining DairyBase.

They have used the support of those around them, including bankers, accountants, and farm owners when they were sharemilking.

“We’ve been really appreciative of the farm owners that we have had,” Mrs Jellyman said. “We have had a lot of support along the way.”

Knowing their numbers has helped with that communication.

“We used DairyBase, especially in the early stages of farming, because it provides that good benchmarking tool and is useful when working with banks and when budgeting because it gives you some figures to work with and talk through with the farm owners.

“With farming it is so important that you know where you are at and you do need to be collecting information, whether that is mating or feed or whatever. All those things all add up and contribute to the big picture.

“How many industries in New Zealand have a similar sort of thing, or access to something like DairyBase?”

Proof of the Jellymans’ farming expertise was seen in the North Otago A&P Association in-calf heifer and heifer calf competition. Their rising-2-year heifers placed third in a line-up described by the judge as very impressive.