Colin and Di from Wilson dairy farm, now see more of the business

Colin and Di Wilson have been running their dairy farms for over 34 years. They now use Xero to see the bigger picture.

Col and Di Wilson and their farm manager Hare Ngaheu walking along a farm track next to a paddock of cows.

From city life to farm life

Col Wilson met his wife Di when he bought some drench from the local vet clinic and won a trip to Sydney where Di was living at the time. After a whirlwind romance and a year of long distance phone calls, Kiwi-born Di made the move back across the ditch.

“My friends laughed when I said I was moving to Whakatane to live with ‘Colin the cow farmer’,” says Di. “I thought I knew what I was up against but it wasn’t until I started living the life that I realised how intense it was.”

Col, on the other hand, was brought up on a dairy farm, left school at 16 and got straight into it. But while he knew everything there was to know about farming, his business skills weren’t up to scratch.

“I really needed somebody like Di,” says Col. “I’m terrible at admin. I just scribble on bits of paper and have piles of it everywhere.”

Watch their story

Three farms, a baby, and a business plan

Using the combination of Col's background in dairy farming and Di’s business skills, they entered and won the Bay of Plenty Sharemilker of the Year award in 2000.

“After that I became more and more involved with the business,” says Di. “And the administration side of things just got bigger and bigger.”

“She’s putting it mildly,” says Col. “Di was very busy in the office. We were running a big sharemilking job and two of our own dairy farms, we’d just had a baby and I was gallivanting around the countryside.”

They both knew they wouldn’t be able to sustain this lifestyle long term, so they made a ten year business plan – to exit sharemilking, run their own business and reduce Di’s workload. They achieved it all in five years.

“Our accountant was always looking for ways for me to spend less time in the office and make the job easier and quicker,” says Di. “That’s where the programs we use made a difference.”

Cows move out of a milking shed after being milked.

I like the fact that with Xero I can ring Katie, I can have Xero in front of me and so does she and we’re looking at the same thing. There’s no confusion.

Di Wilson — Wilson dairy farming

Running the business with Xero and Figured

Col and Di were introduced to Xero and Figured three years ago by their accountants, Brett Bennett and Katie Priebe at FARMit. And streamlining their processes has made things a lot easier for Di in managing the business.

“Prior to Xero, I would code things for our business and at the end of the year our accountant effectively had to redo the whole thing,” says Di. “I like the fact that with Xero I can ring Katie, I can have Xero in front of me and so does she and we’re looking at the same thing. There’s no confusion.”

As well as using Xero with FARMit, Di has also looped in farm management software, Figured to ensure everything is connected.

“Using Xero and Figured together means we’re not double handling,” says Di. “They interact so you don’t have to keep giving the same figures over and over again. And there’s less room for error because it’s going from one program into the other without any human contact to muck it up.”

Being able to consolidate her hours with Xero means that Di can see the detail she needs to ensure the business is running smoothly, and has enabled her to take a part-time job in town.

“I love the flexibility of having our own business and being able to work outside of the business doing something completely different and at the same time still have a handle on what’s going on.” says Di.

Farm manager Hare shakes his dog’s paw as it sits on the back of a truck.

Hare's enthusiasm for the job makes him the perfect fit for the Wilson's Waiohau farm.

Fostering new talent

The long term plan for Col and Di was always to move off the farm, buy their own lifestyle block, take a step back from the day-to-day running of the business and support local talent.

So now in his broader management role, Col has taken on contract milkers at both of their farms, with the farm in Waiohau being run by Hare Ngaheu, winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer of the Year in 2018.

“Hare started working for me through an agricultural work scheme. He had a great attitude, a great smile and a great ethic for work,” says Col. “We want to see people grow. I was young and enthusiastic once, I used to love driving farms, but it’s somebody else’s turn now.”

Knowing that their farms are in capable hands has given Col and Di the space to start making plans for their future. And with help from Xero, Figured and the team from FARMit they’ve got their business into a position where they can run it from anywhere.

“Our five year plan is that we’d like to do a lot more travelling initially around New Zealand,” says Di. “Xero’s helping us plan financially for that and it will mean we can continue to run our business and monitor it no matter where we are.”

Farm manager, Hare, and owner, Di, leaning against a fence and talking to co-owner, Colin.

We want to see people grow. I was young and enthusiastic once, I used to love driving farms, but it’s somebody else’s turn now.

Col Wilson— Wilson dairy farming

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