NZ Dairy Autumn 2022

6 | nzdairy Chris and Desiree Virginia Wright Chris and Desiree Giles met as teenagers in 2000 and after a year of living and working in Auckland they decided it wasn’t for them. Chris had grown up on a dairy farm in the Kaipara, Desiree on a duck farm in Rodney, so it was an easy transition when, in 2002 at the ages of 20 and 19 respectively, they left to start their first year farming together on a dairy farm in Northland. As Chris puts it they “farmed their way south from there”, gradually moving up the ladder of responsibility. By the time they got to Southland in 2008 they were on the lookout for their “forever farm”. All the moving they had done had made them keen to avoid the traditional path into farm ownership which often involves leapfrogging from farm to bigger farm, and they were looking for alternatives. By 2012 Chris and Desiree were milking 600 cows as 50/50 sharemilkers, 30 km’s north of Gore, when Chris went into town to buy a spade, saw an ad for a farm for sale, and went straight out for a look. Even though it was at that stage a sheep and beef farm Chris knew a good thing when he saw it and the decision to buy was almost instantaneous. The “almost” was the time it took for Desiree to get her head around what they were doing given that their second child Andrew was only six weeks old while his older sister Danielle was three. Then, having found the farm, they needed the money to buy it. “We knew we needed shareholders so we put a memorandum of information together and went out to find people to buy into our vision,” explains Chris. The net result is Waimumu Downs, three kilometres out of Gore, owned by an equity partnership of seven, with the initial 147 hectare farm immediately Waimumu Downs milks 550 mostly Jersey Cows on 280 hectares near Gore. DAIRY PEOPLE » Chris & Desiree Giles converted to dairy. Chris and Desiree run the farm as contract milkers for the partnership who are “strangers turned into friends,” as Chris puts it. “We do the budget, we get the okay from the shareholders, and we do all the day-to-day running of the farm. We have regular get togethers with the others throughout the year, so we’re quite social as a group,” he says. Eight years on the 147 hectares have grown to 280 hectares milking 550 mostly Jersey cows, and the slew of awards they’ve won over the last couple of years is testament to their environmentally friendly approach, not only to the farm but also to their community. In 2020 the Giles entered the Balance Farm Environment Awards. “A lot of people do it once everything’s perfect but we entered to benchmark where we were at and see where we could improve,” says Chris. Waimumu Downs was runner-up overall for the Environmental Awards but within that they won the Balance Agri-nutrient Soil Management Award, the Agri-business Management Award, and the Dairy NZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award. In the same year they were nominated for and won the 2021 Gore Environmental Community Award and in 2021 they were nominated for and came third in the Sharemilker of the Year Fonterra Farm Sustainability Award. As far as their farming practices are concerned it was clear they were already well on track with their efficiencies and their stewardship of the land, and the feedback confirmed they were doing the right thing with the way they were addressing winter grazing. “We had been growing fodder-beet crops for VETSOUTHARE PROUDTO SUPPORT CHRIS AND DESIREE GILES BALCLUTHA | GORE | WINTON | INVERCARGILL | LUMSDEN | OTAUTAU | CLYDEVALE | TAPANUI 0800 VETSOUTH |