Davey Family
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Davey Family

Davey Family

A move from England to New Zealand 18 years ago enabled the Davey family to increase their land holding and purchase an arable farm in the sought-after Rakaia area in Canterbury.

The Daveys sold their farm on the east coast of England in Lincolnshire in 2000 and immigrated to New Zealand in September 2001. Bill and his wife Lynda and their son Nick and his wife Julia are all involved in the farming business. Nick and Julia have two children, Isobel, 7, and Harry, 5.

“It was a good exchange rate and we managed to buy some good soil,” Bill explains.

“A lot of the reason behind our leaving was the subsidy system (in England). I felt it was probably nearing the end and it was controlling our finances. It was quite clear we were becoming more and more reliant on subsidies.

“There’s no safety net here, there’s no doubt about that. But, climatically, we have water and lovely soil here and with the two combined we can produce respectable yields.”

The family runs an intensive cropping and dairy support system. Bill takes care of the office and administration side of the business while Nick runs the day-to-day operations, including managing staff.

They grow a range of crops, from cereals to hybrid carrot seed, hybrid canola and seed brassicas. 

Davey Family

Within the business they integrate a large area of Italian ryegrass and graze hoggets over winter, as well as wintering 2000 dairy cows on kale, feeding them barley straw as a supplement. The farm is 90% irrigated and has the added bonus of having its own deep water bores and a good allocation of water.

“We have good supply and apply it mainly through lateral irrigation. It gives us surety of production, greater flexibility in the business and the ability to establish crops in late summer.”

While the irrigation provides good insurance, Bill does view it as a slight double edged sword. “It does mean we have to work the farm hard to get the outputs at the same time as intensifying the inputs. As long as water is free, that makes it quite attractive.”

Davey Family

Diversifying the business

Nick also runs his own contracting business, Springdale Baling Contactors, focusing on baling and processing, with about a 60:40 split between straw and silage. They have grown the contracting business off-farm, incorporating Nick’s business with cultivation and harvesting services, offered to several neighbouring farms.

“It works well. The more we use it, the more important it becomes to the business,” Bill says.

The business has grown a lot since Nick started it seven years ago, though he is mindful that the farm is the first priority.

“I don’t want to be completely swallowed up in it, or for it to compromise the farm, but it’s enabled the farm to do a lot alongside it.” Nick hires the tractors from the farm and uses the farm’s gear. He is building a solid reputation in the area and is careful not to over-promise and under-deliver. 

“I won’t take anything on unless I can actually deliver."

“We like to be efficient and are quite particular. We try to look after our lovely soils and the stock, we treat them as if they were our own. We also like to keep good gear up to speed, we can’t afford breakdowns when we’re so busy.” 

At the peak of the season they employ three staff, as well as Bill and Nick, in the overall farming business. “Getting key people is important as well, it’s not a practice ground, so it’s about finding the right people.”

The contracting business complements the farming operation well, and fills in gaps when the farm is not as busy. “It helps pay some of our staff at times when the farm is quiet.”

Switching to Rabobank

The Daveys are relatively new to Rabobank, changing to the bank in 2016. The move has been a positive one, they say. “Rabobank approached us. We had a young bank manager approach us and we were all ears, if it would help improve the business,” Bill says.

"The package they put together was quite attractive compared to what our bank at the time was offering us. We’ve never looked back and are very happy with how we’re looked after and their knowledge.

“They’re a farming bank and know what they’re talking about. I don’t have to explain anything to our manager – he knows what I know – and that makes it much easier going forward.”
Davey Family

Nick says Rabobank has been very accommodating and has a great understanding of the seasonal peaks and troughs of their business. 

“They’re always guiding me through and are eager to see the business grow. They are great people to deal with. They’re reasonably relaxed, but also very professional. “I have enjoyed being with them and would certainly recommend them.”

As for future plans, Bill says it’s nice to think opportunities to purchase more neighbouring land might come up, but for now they’re focused on what they’re already doing on-farm. 

“Going through the periods we have been through, stability is important and keeping the ship on an even keel. Having a grandson in the business, his future is in my sights, to carry on the business in years to come.”

While moving to the other side of the world has provided the family with opportunities, it does come at a personal cost. “We were entering a different culture to embrace in New Zealand, but if we didn’t like it, we wouldn’t still be here,” Bill says. “We do miss our friends and family and we miss events, like weddings. My brother is still in England. But you can’t have everything, the priority is here and we have to manage it,” Nick adds.

Selling 700 acres in England enabled them to acquire 1200 acres in New Zealand, though Bill says it is becoming more and more of a challenge to stay profitable in the current climate. “Cereal prices the last couple of years have been in the doldrums and the low dairy payout as well, but we’re seeing a glimpse of light and the short term outlook for arable farming looks good, and we needed that in cropping.”