Finger Family - Gippsland | Rabobank Australia Client
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Rabobank
 

Finger Family, Gippsland

 

 

Starting your own business from scratch is tough – and even tougher if it’s in a dairy sector going through some difficult times – but Simon and Lauren Finger have not only survived… they’ve thrived.

The enterprising young couple have come a long way since starting out in business together as share farmers a little over a decade ago.

Three years after taking the plunge they made their first land purchase, buying 40 hectares on a property in Yannathan in West Gippsland, Victoria, and leasing the balance.

But that changed last year, when Simon and Lauren purchased the rest of the farm – a feat they ‘celebrated’ by installing an automatic drafting gate!

Today, they not only own their own farm, but also lease a second property, giving them some 400 hectares of land for a dairy operation that now milks about 800 cows twice a day and produces around five million litres of milk annually.

A shared journey

And, the Fingers said, their Rabobank relationship manager, Russell Mann, has been with them for the entire journey.

“We came to Rabobank when we came to this farm and we had the opportunity to purchase the 40 hectares. Russell has been our manager the whole time and he has certainly backed us.”

“He has been a good, trusted advisor to our business and he has a good understanding of our business. Also, it’s nice to be with a bank that’s focussed on agriculture and understands agriculture,” Lauren said.



Nothing too big, or too small

For both Simon, a third generation dairy farmer, and Lauren, who previously worked as a veterinarian in a mixed practice, running their dairy enterprise means working at any level of the business when needed.

“We work the top and the bottom of the business, so we find ourselves doing the strategy, business management and all that sort of thing, but we also tend to end up doing the menial tasks that get left because nobody else wants to do them,” Lauren said.

“We try to focus on the things that make us money and make sure that we don’t lose sight of the big picture.”

Right from the start, the Fingers have been quick to see and act on opportunities as they arise, particularly when it comes to livestock.

“We’ve been able to do what we’ve done through livestock. We probably look a bit further and a bit wider and maybe a bit more unconventionally when deciding what we’re willing to buy and sell,” Lauren said.

But looking further outside the square for opportunities is a philosophy they apply to all aspects of their business, from growth to making profit.



Working the lows

Describing themselves as ‘low intervention’ farmers, Lauren said they in believe in ‘working with nature, not against it’.

“We don’t use pesticides and we don’t spray out pastures. We don’t like to cultivate the soil, we’ll direct drill and try to preserve the soil structure.”

“We use plenty of fertiliser, but we try to time it cleverly and strategically so we’re getting returns from it,” Lauren added.

As a ‘low-tech’ farm, Lauren said they rely heavily on low stress stock handling and training their people to produce high quality milk with fairly limited infrastructure – and that’s something they do very successfully.

“We’re very much focussed on putting the animals first, looking after them and making them productive,” she said.

Planning for family, farm and future

As the parents of three children aged six, eight and ten, Simon and Lauren have had to balance their family life with the 24-7 nature of farming, and that’s something they're keeping in mind while planning for the future of their business.

“We could certainly grow, but we also need to consider what the impact would be on the family,” Lauren said.

“Where do we go from here, do we grow, do we shrink? These are all the decisions we’re going through the process of making at the moment, and we’re doing it in what has been a challenging few years for the dairy industry too.

“We do have work to do on this farm and there’s plenty to occupy us in developing it, bringing in modern infrastructure and looking at technology.”

The need to make the right decisions for their business was one of the reasons that Simon took part in Rabobank’s Executive Development Program (EDP).

The EDP helps participants build strategic planning capabilities and commercial management skills to explore options for business growth.

“At the time, our business was at a point where we needed to make some decisions about growing,” Simon said.

“Continuous improvement is also one of our values here, so the EDP was part of that process for me too.”

Following her own ‘continuous improvement’ pathway, Lauren is currently taking part in the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP).

“The ARLP was mentioned to me by several people as being an outstanding program and I was quite interested in the leadership aspect," Lauren said.

That interest stems from her involvement in the boards of both the local school council and the industry’s Regional Development Program for the area, GippsDairy.

The current Deputy Chair of GippsDairy, Lauren has been involved in the organisation for five years.

“It allows me to contribute back to the industry, to contribute to Dairy Australia with some of Gippsland’s priorities and to help shape the development of their programs and how they’re delivered,” she said.

 

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