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Wairarapa sheep and beef farmers Dion and Ali Kilmister operate on a no surprises basis – they budget two years in advance at all times.

“Without Cashmanager we would be completely in the dark,” Ali says.

The couple, who own and lease a number of properties around the Wairarapa and Tararua regions, won this year’s Wairarapa Sheep & Beef Farm Business of the Year and have been on a steep business growth trajectory.

As well as being successful farmers, they operate Dion’s trucking business and have two branded meat products, sold under their own Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats brand and Grass Fed Girls, a collaboration with Taylor Preston.

The couple own three properties, Puketai, a breeding property under the Puketoi Range in Pongaroa and Canoga Park, a breeding and finishing farm at Bideford. A third farm near Pahiatua was recently purchased, with plans to turn it into an intensive beef finishing unit. They lease a further four farms, including Belmont Regional Park, which is owned by the Greater Wellington Regional Council and open to the public almost 24/7.

Collectively they have 2960ha (2650 effective) and 25,000 SU, with a mix of breeding and finishing properties. This includes two smaller 40ha lease blocks near Masterton, which are almost all in crop for lamb finishing.

It is part of their strategic plan to know where they are going and budget two years in advance.

“With our progressive growth, it has also been required by the bank. We are always able to take along forward planned budgets, which give them an idea of where we are headed. It’s a piece of paper the banks want to see these days. It’s a good tool to crunch the numbers on a new property and helps evaluate different scenarios.”

Using Cashmanager, the couple does the budgeting together and Ali says Dion is constantly revising the budget. “If he’s not in it every third or fourth day I would be surprised.  He doesn’t like surprises. If something is changing, like the lamb schedule, he wants the budget moving forward to be reflective of that.”

Ali looks after the monthly reconciliation and usually does it on the fifth of the month.  “I can see how the previous month has gone and that gives us an idea if we need to have discussions or look at anything moving forward.”

With so many businesses and properties to keep track of, the couple recently started using enterprising and are looking forward to being able to separate out the different branches of their operation.

“It’s going to be really good to get actual data on each place and make sure each place is paying for itself.”

Dion and Ali have developed an innovative new way of employing farm managers under their contact manager concept, adapted from the dairy industry.

“We know from five years of historical Cashmanager records the costs of running a farm, per year and per SU. The contractor is paid a yearly amount for running the farm in equal monthly portions, plus GST. This way the contractor has his own business.

“It would have been really hard to do that without that Cashmanager data. We’ve had Kerry on it (contract managing) for two years now and just evaluated his first year. We were pretty much bang on what it cost him to run the farm. That gives us confidence.” 

They have looked at other farm financial software products on the market, but Ali says Cashmanager is the complete package, and is looking forward to Cash Manager Focus.

“The other products don’t allow what Cashmanager does, in my opinion.

“We are both self-taught with Cashmanager but I think we use it to its fullest. We use it for budgeting, enterprising and have bank feeds, so everything is automated. As new functions come on, we make the most of them, to make our lives easier,” Ali says.

“The bank feeds are brilliant, there’s no margin for error with them.” 

She also likes the support centre and the fact it is locally based, in Masterton. “One thing I find just the best is the call centre. If I’m in the middle of something, I don’t have time to sit on the phone for ages and it’s good having a human being at the end of the phone. Also the website and HelpCentre is quite useful.”

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