Big Sky expanding despite profit cut by half

The original Big Sky dairy farm development, near Patearoa, in the Maniototo, in the early-2000s. Photo supplied.
The original Big Sky dairy farm development, near Patearoa, in the Maniototo, in the early-2000s. Photo supplied.
The United States-owned Big Sky dairy farm on the Maniototo has booked a more than 50% decline in profit, but is continuing to expand with acquisitions in the district and increases to its nearly $13 million herd.

Big Sky was purchased out of receivership by the multibillion-dollar Harvard University endowment fund in late 2010 for $32 million. Its total asset value in its full-year financial report to June last year has risen 11% to $60.4 million from $54.3 million the previous year.

Its present valuation on land, buildings and improvements has increased from $30.7 million to $33.4 million, which includes water rights valued at $7.6 million.

The dairy operation is one of New Zealand's largest. Harvard fund managers do not comment on annual financial results.

Harvard has developed Big Sky to its controversial concept size of profitably milking more than 6000 cows. At June last year, Harvard's subsidiary DF1 Ltd and its group subsidiaries were milking 6641 cows, compared with 6318 the year before on about 2350ha, on the farms Helenslea, Alnwick, Tercio and Saran. The herd is valued at $12.9 million.

The full-year report, filed with the Companies Office on Christmas Eve, said DF1 acquired the farm assets of Dogterom O'Callaghan Ltd, a Puketoi Runs Rd leased-farm, for $2.5 million, including $1 million for stock and $1.23 million in Fonterra shares; all of which still requires Overseas Investment Office approval. Harvard's investment in Fonterra shares is up 15% at $9.1 million.

During the year, DF1 acquired a 20% interest in the Maniototo East Side Irrigation Co Ltd, plus board representation through a related party.

The financial report showed DF1's operating revenue declined 3.4%, from $11.3 million the previous year to $10.98 million for the year to June. It appears rising farm expenses and administration costs contributed to a 55% decline in after-tax profit, from $4.33 million the previous year to $1.94 million.

While the overall decline in operating revenue was offset by increasing livestock sales by more than $500,000 to $900,000 for the year, its ''sale of goods'', or milk, was down more than 8% from $10.9 million to $10 million. Rising costs included farm expenses, up by $1.21 million to $8 million, and administration, up more than $400,000 to $1.86 million.

DF1 Ltd was incorporated in the Cayman Islands and registered in New Zealand as a branch of an overseas company. The ''group'' financial results reported represent DF1 and its 99%-owned subsidiary Dairy Farms Partnership.


2011-12 dairy season statistics
• Around the country 11,798 herds run 4.6 million cows.
• National average herd is 393; in the South Island, 596; in Otago, 579.
• 500-plus cows in 10% of herds.
• 105 herds bigger than 1500.
• 50 herds have more than 1900 cows.

SOURCE: DAIRYNZ


- simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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