With the New Zealand dairy sector re-asserting itself as a key global protein source, investment interest in the sector has been heightened in the past year.
This spring the opportunity to invest in dairy’s ongoing fortune has presented itself with a portfolio of properties in the Galatea district, southeast of Whakatane.
The Barkla Portfolio offers a platform for either an owner-operator seeking a larger-scale farm operation, or an investment group wishing to participate in a rural investment capable of delivering strong cash focused returns.
The property portfolio consists of three operating dairy units comprising a total of 503ha (470ha effective), and last season (2020/21) generated circa 745,000kg milksolids.
The operation delivered operational earnings before interest and tax of $2.17 million, representing a highly respectable rate of return in a low interest rate environment. This season’s milksolids are anticipated to be similar, but with a higher net profit thanks to a further increase in milksolids’ value.
The farm portfolio has been built up over the past decade by its current owner, with past investment and management changes ensuring a new owner has the opportunity to recognise those returns within the first season of ownership.
Bayleys rural salesperson Phil Badger says the farms’ operations have undergone some significant shifts in recent years which have helped unlock their full potential.
“Two of the properties, ‘Haumea’ and ‘Galatea’ now operate on a split calving system, with Haumea benefitting from a Fonterra winter milk supply premium.
“Meantime the ‘Whirinaki’ property runs a traditional spring calving pattern and capitalises on the 90ha of irrigated pasture area which is almost 70 percent of the farm’s total area.”
Water certainty enables this property to be stocked at four cows per hectare, with the other two running at 3.9 per hectare. Each are estimated to produce on average about 14t of dry-matter a year for this season. In total the three properties are milking 1,750 (peak) cows this season.
The irrigation supply comes from the Whirinaki River with consent granted until September 2032, while farm production is supported by a robust and closely managed feed plan throughout the season.
The Barkla portfolio consists of three farms, but they are presently benefitting from single management control with a contract milker overseeing all aspects of daily operations including staff, herd management and milking routines.
“The willingness of the operator to remain under a new owner does much to ensure a seamless transition, if required.”
The key feature of management across all three farms is a commitment to a relatively simple, grass-based system that keeps capital needs low, and also leverages on the properties’ completely flat contour.
The ease of operation is ensured with a good base of infrastructure, with herringbone dairies on each property and a full range of quality staff accommodation.
“The existing owners have encouraged a robust, straightforward system, and it is one that makes any transfer far simpler, and without any need for significant additional investment in equipment or fixed assets.”
The Galatea district forms a distinct dairy zone nestled between the Urewera National Park and the Kaingaroa Forest, forming a close community within reasonable travelling distance of Whakatane and Rotorua.
The combination of Taupo Ash soils, 1,200mm annual rainfall and exceptional contour means despite being less recognised, Galatea district offers a desirable dairy opportunity.
“You are within easy distance of any number of recreational activities, whether they are coastal-based or land-based, with the Whirinaki Forest park very close by, it really is the best of everything,” says Badger.
With New Zealand now reaching “peak cow”, the ability to tap into dairy returns offering scale in the future is only likely to become more competitive and challenging.
“And we have witnessed farm gate milk prices, despite commodity volatility being relatively more consistent since 2015, and global supply is only predicted to tighten as other countries also face challenges to herd increases.