Go Go Farming Son

If we had to draw a comparison between farming father and sons then typically the son would have a "go-go'' attitude and the father err towards a "go-slow'' approach.

What a great combination this pair would be in these volatile rural times of ours. On second thoughts they would likely generate their own volatility.

The wives would of course end up as the absolute referee when they came to loggerheads.

Typically, the father can never understand "iron' disease'' - that crippling affliction that causes farmers to buy farm machinery at every opportunity - because he has never had the money. The son of course cannot understand this approach because the bank and some of the vehicle firms seem to have endless money.

The son pushes the point that sometimes it is better to pay interest than repairs with farm plant. His dad does not completely disagree with this but feels they need as few wheels as possible. The son feels the colour of the tractor is crucial whereas his dad feels the colour of the money is much more vital to the farm business.

The son is all for getting the local vet whenever any animal is on the ground and is not interested in getting up – but dad says every time the vet comes in the gate it costs the value of at least one live lamb.

The son gets on well with the farm banker and they talk business over many cups of tea – dad feels the quality and age of the banker's car says everything.

Son wants to attend every farm field day and every farm seminar within 50 kilometres of the homestead and brings home copies, reports and notes for dad to read. His dad reads them all and quickly mentions that the most recent set of notes would increase the farm's gross income by $20,000 and increase the farm expenses by $25,000 with a whole lot of work by father and son that was not accounted for.

While the son feels the new accountant is sharp-as, writes well and dresses well, dad just cannot think beyond the bean counter image he has always been used to and feels leopards cannot change their spots and neither can bean counters.

Mum gets sick of being asked her opinion when she knows both sides are deeply entrenched in their views – she often wonders how farming people ever got as far as they have.

The son looks longingly at the neighbour's hogget block and dreams about just how well it would fit into their home block – dad does not do any dreaming at all but he thinks very clearly about the extra borrowing that the purchase would involve.

The son feels the $1.2 million mortgage is definitely repayable within 15 years if they all face north and work hard. The mother can see all shopping becoming illegal with this approach and dad cannot understand how his son passed any arithmetic exercises of any kind because on his abacus to repay the mortgage would involve 12,000 lambs without allowing for any expenses of any kind. With the home farm carrying only 2500 ewes he worries about where young agriculture is heading.

The son's farm budget always allows for an income item called unforeseen income – dad's farm budget always allows for an expense item called unforeseen expenses.

Son is 100 per cent in charge of the farm bank deposit book and dad is 100 per cent in charge of the farm bank cheque book. The mother feels dad is on the margin here, but agrees dad is smarter than he looks.

The son feels the peak overdraft, which at $295,000 is 55 per cent of the gross farm income, is all in order and much later in the year that they should be in credit for about three days – dad feels the overdraft is a telephone number.

The daughter cannot understand what her mother even saw in her dad many years ago but does agree that when the going gets really tough dad is often the only one still standing and if it was not for dad her student loan would by now have been enormous.

The daughter finds her brother even more difficult than dad and really wonders where New Zealand agriculture is heading. Dad finds that her boyfriends do not seem to like work enough, they do not understand saving and he feels that most of them need haircuts. The daughter does not want to marry a farmer – she wants a man who is good with money, does not swear, has a clean car on the inside and the outside, works normal hours and only talks when spoken to. Dad thinks only a bean counter could fit this role.

Son is in the process of trying to convince dad that getting a replacement tractor that has 30 more horse power than their present model would save about 100 hours a year of tractor work. Dad looks at the homework, but with 40 hectares of wheat, 20ha of winter feed and 30ha of new grass each year and with all of this being done slower and more carefully with the present model he is comfortable with the status quo. On top of that the son does all the tractor work.

Son is talking about a second trip overseas and taking his girlfriend with him but dad feels getting a video of something overseas would be just as good. The mother finds it frustrating that both of her children have seen more of the world than she has.

The mother is finding that her referee role is getting more onerous as husband and son get older.

The family solicitor keeps telling the family that their net assets are very sound and that they can all look forward with confidence. Son wants to talk about farm succession, mum wants to talk about cash, daughter wants to talk about tomorrow and dad keeps referring to some years back. The solicitor makes the comment that they are a reasonably normal dysfunctional farming family.

The son feels he absolutely needs a V8 utility that is not too old, has a good brand, preferably black and looks sharp. His sister can see a girlfriend in the front seat and two dogs on the deck. The mother can see all sorts of issues and risks and dad is busy closing the door on any GST claims and farm business expenses and contributions. The son is not a very good saver and this means dad's position is probably unworkable.

Pita Alexander is a specialist farm accountant at Alexanders.