Benmore Limited

A marriage of skills on and off the land

  • Benmore Limited - Wairarapa

    Lucy and Robert with children Emma (left) and Annabel (right) at home on the land.

For both Robert and Lucy Thorneycroft, farming is in their blood. Both grew up on farms; Robert in the South Island and Lucy further north in Wairarapa.

In 2000, Rob made the move across Cook Strait and took a shepherding job in Wairarapa, where he met Lucy and as they say, the rest is history. “We both have a love for rural life and with our complementary skills, we make a great team both in business and in life,” says Robert.

In 2004, the couple bought a five hectare lifestyle block in Masterton, where they built a nursery specialising in growing Christmas trees.

“Having the Christmas tree nursery was excellent in terms of learning how to run a business. We experimented with different ways of marketing the trees, working with supermarkets and other retail outlets. This background in business management was very helpful for the farm business we have now,” explains Robert.

The marriage of Robert and Lucy’s academic backgrounds also adds valuable skills to their business. Robert has a Diploma in Farm Management from Lincoln, whilst Lucy graduated from Otago with a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing and Management.

“Lucy and I work well together,” says Rob. “Both of us have a farming background, we understand the dynamics of the industry and share ideas.”

In 2010, the Thorneycrofts were pleased to purchase Benmore. The farm was lacking some key infrastructure and fertility but Robert and Lucy could see its potential.

“We had to commission a relocated wool shed and build sheep and cattle yards, which gave us independence from our neighbours, being able to move stock as required. The farm also required significant investment in fertiliser annually.

Benmore is a high performance sheep and beef breeding / finishing operation, consisting of 2100 composite breeding ewes, 60 Angus cows and trading cattle. Within the trading cattle operation, there are dairy heifers that are purchased in autumn as weaners and then sold back to dairy farmers the following autumn, in calf ready to be used as milking stock.

Robert enjoys being an owner operator and only employs contractors on a casual basis when demand requires. “As owners, we have a hand in everything and give 100 percent. We have a vested interest and a passion for the business.”

Each month Robert gets together with other farmers in the district to share ideas in a formal rural discussion group run by agribusiness consultants, Baker & Associates.

“We meet at a different farm each time,” says Robert. “We analyse each other’s financial performance and production. It’s an invaluable benchmarking tool that allows us to look into other businesses, and learn from other farmers, some of whom have been farming for more than 20 years. We share our experiences with each other, good, bad, and otherwise. It’s a brilliant learning opportunity.”

The Thorneycrofts are happy with the farm’s performance, and this year are looking to develop another 30 hectares of gorse country into pasture, which will bring the farm’s productive hectarage to 480.

Managing the financial aspects of a rural business requires an understanding of the farming industry, something Robert says he has found in Markhams Wairarapa director Russell Stewart.

“Russell understands the business of farming and has a portfolio of rural clients. He manages our taxation obligations and gives solid financial advice. We talk every couple of months as we work towards preparing our annual accounts.

“Markhams has a very professional, friendly team. They’ve helped us grow our business.”

Published Winter 2012.

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