Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 23 November 2017

Guiney family share key strategies that helped them buy into 2,350ac

Leonie and Kieran Guiney and their children at the Positive Farmers conference last week.
Leonie and Kieran Guiney and their children at the Positive Farmers conference last week.
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Financial discipline and sustainable farm systems that can be easily replicated have been the main drivers behind a New Zealand dairy farm expansion that would make many an Irish dairyman's eyes water.

Husband-and-wife team Leonie and Kieran Guiney have gone from an 800-cow share milking herd to a 3,000-cow dairy business with 950ha of owned land and four of their own share milkers in just over 10 years.

The couple, Kiwi Leonie and Kilkenny native Kieran, increased their equity from NZ$850,000 (€519,000) in 2002 to a multi-million dollar business that is doing well enough for the pair and their four children to move to France for a year.

Taking time out from their French experience, all six members of the family attended the Positive Farmers Conference in Clonmel last week.

"We're not here to tell our story and say 'look at us, aren't we fantastic' - I cringe at the thought," Leonie told the 450 farmers packed into the Clonmel Park Hotel.

"We are here to share our experience and show how much can be done if you apply certain principles to your dairy business.

"You need to be clear about what you want and why, then write it down and tell people about it," she continued.

The Guiney business story began back in 2002 when the couple hired a babysitter and took three days to write a vision statement that described everything they wanted to get out of life.

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"It included being able to create a business that would allow them to increase their wealth and generate enough time for friends, family, global travel and fitness.

Since that day, everything the couple do in their business has been focused on achieving those goals.

"Our business strategy is to run the dairy farm with a high utilisation of grass on a low capital base to generate a high cash surplus that is invested well to create a growing business," she explained.

"Sharemilking has been the vehicle for us to do that and land ownership, although it was not one of our original goals, it presented itself as an investment that met our investment criteria."

The couple have repeatedly found and bought land that was not recognised as having dairy potential, but actually met their targets for return on equity.

Their four farms near Fairlie in Canterbury on New Zealand's South Island were converted from sheep farms.

Leonie told the Positive Farmers Conference that every investment decision they make is subject to the same scrutiny.

"Will the return on capital give a high enough safety margin over the cost of capital?

"Will this investment improve or disimprove the fundamentals targeted in our vision statement?

"If it will improve them, we will invest," she explained.

Ms Guiney credited their business acumen to her experience in Ireland.

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"We are only regurgitating the principles of investment and strategic thinking that I learned while in Ireland from some of the people in this room," she told the conference delegates.

"Many of you follow the 'grass to dollars' philosophy, but better now than many New Zealand farmers.

"They have become distracted by chasing output, which is where you were 20 years ago," she said.

Irish Independent