GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

As a young man, Dion Kilmister dreamed of running his own farm, complete with tractors, trucks and even a plane.

He wanted to be a farmer, truck driver and a butcher – why choose when you can be all three?

The Bideford farmer has seven high-end beef and lamb farms spread in a 200-kilometre arc from Dannevirke to Wellington with wife Ali.

The range of farms helps spread the weather risk because if it’s dry on one farm, stock can be moved to another but mounting transport costs from running the operation were all the incentive Dion needed to fulfil his boyhood dream and buy a huge truck and trailer unit.

“He’s like a kid in a lolly shop,” wife Ali said. “Dion just loves his truck.”

Dion Kilmister with bulldog Millie.
PHOTO/DON PAULIN

Dion agreed. “Every time I get in and drive it, it’s like the first time,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”

To complete the treble, he has his own meat brand, selling direct to consumers.

As a young man in his 20s, Dion drew a picture of everything he wanted.

“We’ve got pretty much all of it – except the plane,” he said with a laugh. “I’m scared of heights, so I won’t be getting the plane.”

Dion and Ali have more than 20,000 stock units, looked after by three farm managers, two of whom are Dion’s older brothers.

They have developed an innovative way of employing their managers, modelled on the share-milking system.

The managers are paid the entire annual farm budget and are left to run the farm.

All costs such as wages, equipment, dogs and vehicles come out of that budget, and any savings they make they keep.

If there are any over-runs, they have to pay for those from their own money.

The model encourages efficiencies but not corner-cutting.

Every month Dion and Ali inspect each farm and, with the manager, set goals for the month ahead.

“It’s a win-win”, said Dion’s older brother Kerry, one of the managers.

“I’m effectively running my own business within Dion’s business.

“We’re very close friends as well as brothers. We see eye-to-eye on farming, so it works really well.”

Ali and Dion are set to appear on TV One’s Country Calendar next Sunday at 7pm.