Investment for Succession and Growth
Old fashioned milk churns decorate the path leading up to the Mitchell farmhouse, showing the pride the family has in their dairy business.
“It’s nature’s greatest produce,” says Dan Mitchell, one of two brothers who have taken over the Cheshire farm from their dad Stephen.
But life on the Mitchell farm had become a slog. Farming has always been hard work, but spending ten hours a day in a dark, hot milking parlour that had been built when their dad was still at school and had been in decline for ten years left no time to invest in the rest of the business – or family life.
“You can be milking for nine or ten hours a day,” explained Daniel. “There’s only me and my brother Tom, so you’re tied up for all that time and you can’t do anything else.”
The Mitchells were stuck in a rut.
But when Oxbury Senior Agricultural Relationship Manager Mel Shipley came to discuss refinancing options after the brothers had become disillusioned with their old provider, she immediately saw what was needed – a new milk parlour, fit for the 21st century.
Tom explains: “We’d asked Oxbury to come in to talk about refinancing but straight away she said, ‘This can’t carry on – you need a new parlour.’
“We’d asked the old bank about it but they weren’t interested – they didn’t even know what it would cost. Mel explained that it would be a big investment, but that gave us a lot of confidence because it was clear she knew what she was talking about.”
Mel says: “Working for a bank that understands agriculture means I could just go back to our credit team and say, we’re doing refinancing now but in 12-18 months time, these guys are going to need to invest. Not only will it improve financial returns but it will also benefit their family life, which is so important.”
That’s something Mel knows all about. Growing up on the family farm in Canterbury in New Zealand, where the Shipley’s have been farming since arriving in the country 150 years ago, farming is in her blood. She had wanted to return to the farm after university but her dad encouraged her to get more life experience first, which eventually led to Oxbury. “The agricultural proposition was something I couldn’t say no to,” said Mel.
“Just sitting round the kitchen table chatting to her, you can tell she’s very in touch with farming,” said Tom, who was excited by the idea of how a new parlour would give them more time and energy to grow their business.
Now the state-of-the-art building is up and running, the brothers have cut their milking time in half, giving them an extra five hours a day where they can do other jobs on the farm, make plans to develop the business – or just enjoy spending time with their young family.
“It’s changed our lives,” says Daniel.
It’s not just the brothers who are seeing the benefits of the new facility. The cows are happier and healthier too, rushing to the parlour to be milked, something that is evident in their improved milk yields.
Mel is delighted to see the new parlour up and running and is proud that Oxbury could make it happen. “There’s a passion for the industry all through the bank, from the executive committee to us on the front line.”
The new parlour is a world away from the oppressive brick-built structure of old. The light and spacious new facility has breathed fresh inspiration into the Mitchells as they exploit new opportunities.
“We’ve just bought another 150 cows and we’re building another two sheds for them,” says Tom. “We just want to keep expanding and, with Oxbury by our side, I think we can do that.”