Know your options

SOUTH West NSW farmer, Trent McCann, believes many farmers are unaware of the options available to them when seeking finance.

Trent and Brooke McCann operate a mixed hay, cropping and lamb finishing operation 20 km east of Grenfell in tandem with Trent’s parents, John and Joanne McCann.

While both families own their own land, livestock and machinery, day-to-day operations are managed using a team approach. Machinery is also shared with another brother, Matthew McCann, who also farms in the Grenfell region.

John and Joanne’s property, ‘Hill Side’, comprises 760 ha, while Trent and Brooke own a 312 ha block, ‘Bungonia’, across the road, as well as leasing another 435 ha.

The combined operation grows about 880 ha of wheat, oats, triticale and canola each year, with half of the wheat and oats cut for hay. The family also finishes up to 4000 trade lambs each year, as well as the progeny from 120 Angus and Charolais cows. 

The operation produces up to 5000 large square bales of hay a year. Whereas the majority of this used to be processed into high quality chaff, it is now sold directly to several NSW South Coast dairy farmers. 

“At its peak, the mill was producing about 3500 tonnes of wheat and oaten chaff packaged into 25 kg bags every year,” Trent says. “After 25 years of operation, we decided to sell the mill last year. Dad wants to try out his caravan and my passion is growing quality hay, not managing a large team of workers.”

Trent and Brooke purchased ‘Bungonia’, complete with a 150-year-old house that once serviced  as a Cobb & Co hotel, nine years ago. “I wanted to work  on my own farm, Brooke wanted to continue teaching in Young and we both wanted a good lifestyle for our children, Hunter (10) and Oscar (8), so it was a win-win,” he says.

“I initially financed this purchase via my father’s bank. Once we had the property running well, we started to look at how could restructure our loan. We changed banks and Richard Hewitt became my new business banker. 

“He had a very clear understanding of what we were doing and managed to get me a better interest rate. When I heard Richard had left the bank and become a broker, I was more than happy to let him review my arrangements. 

“He knew what I wanted and I was too busy to do anything about it. I was more than happy to engage someone who knew what the banks wanted. I don’t feel comfortable dealing with banks because I don’t know their lingo.

“He took my credit application to four banks and all of them were interested. One of them was significantly cheaper, so it was a no-brainer to change banks again. Every saving you can make is money that can be used for something else. 

“I don’t like moving banks but it pays to shop around. You have to do the rounds every four or five years to make sure no-one gets complacent. My first bank really only started to take notice of my business when they got wind that I going to leave.” 

Nimbus also arranged finance on a farm ute and a high performance Krone baler. “I could have easily put the ute on dealer finance and driven home that afternoon, but why wouldn’t you give it to a professional to sort it out for you,” Trent says. 

“It’s so convenient. I focussed on getting the right machine and the best price and Richard took care of the rest.”

Trent and Brooke recently purchased another 122 ha block next door to ‘Bungonia’. “Again, Richard took care of the finance, which went through my existing bank,” he says.

“He had all the information on file and came out to see us to make sure he understood the new purchase would be incorporated into our business. He was then able to professionally present what we wanted to do for the bank in a way that made sense for them. He checked out all the different packages and interest rates and made it easy for us to get a better deal. 

“I still think a lot of farmers are a bit unsure about using a broker or what they can do for you. I’d say it’s the only way to go. What you end up signing is your choice but unless you have a broker, you probably don’t even know what your options are.”

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