Partnership proves fruitful

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Entering into a business partnership with a farming neighbour is not for the faint-hearted.

But sharing the financial load of machinery costs has paid dividends for Cranbrook farmers Ben and Louise Sprigg and their neighbours Mark and Sonia Addis.

The partnership means both businesses have access to quality machinery, which can be used across two farms in a productive high rainfall region.

Mr Sprigg said the two secret ingredients that ensured business success were transparency and record keeping.

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"We are neighbours and good mates, but we have to be pragmatic about the arrangement," he said.

"Everything is recorded and there is no ambiguity.

"Everyone knows what is going on at every stage and we have regular meetings to ensure all parties are happy at every stage.

"We've been working this way for three years now and it's been fantastic - it allows both of us access to good machinery which we wouldn't have been able to purchase on our own. The impost on the business if we went at it alone would have been massive and very impractical.

"We now spread the cost of the machines over both businesses and it makes the investment possible."

Mr Sprigg's parents John and Katie run Trevelen Farm Wines on the Cranbrook property, and it was John's departure from the broadacre business that sparked the new agreement with the Addises.

"My dad used to drive the air seeder, but I didn't want him to work forever when I knew he really wanted to be involved in the wine business, and I didn't want to try and find a backpacker for the busy times every year," he said.

"So I could see the need for a different set up."

While the Addises put in both crops, the Spriggs do the spraying across both properties.

During harvest time, the harvester and chaff cart are shared between the farms.

Mr Sprigg and Mr Addis hope to continue their partnership.

"It's been really good, it's very motivating," Mr Sprigg said.

"Mark and I have different approaches to cropping, which is good for both of us, because we are both trying different things and being motivated by each other.

"I think sometimes its very easy in a farming business to become quite insulated, but because there is two of us we've created a stimulating business environment, and I'm certainly a lot more positive about agriculture now."

This year, the Spriggs are harvesting 550ha of canola, 250ha of wheat and 350ha of barley.

Mr Sprigg said while his property had only received 380mm for the year against a long-term average of 450mm, most of the rain had been well timed and had fallen in the growing season.

He estimated canola yields were between 1.4 and 1.8t/ha, which was average for the area.

But he said he was concerned about high screenings in the barley.

"We planted the barley early this year, so I'm hoping that I might have dodged a bullet there; we'll just have to wait and see," he said.

Mr Sprigg said it was the earliest start to seeding he had experienced in his 20-year farming career, and given the dry spring finish, it would only be an average year for the business.

"I'm happy with an average result that means it's all budgeted for. It's not realistic if you are expecting a bumper crop every year," he said.

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