Succession cases

David Brown often acts as an expert in legal matters that required an intimate understanding of livestock production systems and farm business performance.

A common and unfortunate issue is when a sibling has worked on the family farm without proper remuneration in the view that, one day, their share of the inheritance will reflect their past efforts.

Often, due to relationship failure, those who have worked on farm have emerged with nothing more to show than the other heirs except some basic farm hand skills and a bad back! As a result, the sibling will seek forgone remuneration for all those years of underpaid work from the competing heirs of the estate. In these instances David’s skills and experience allow him to quantify how much foregone remuneration is owed to the plaintiff given the nature of what has happened.

A common misnomer in this scenario is that being a farmer is the same as having a full-time job. Being a farmer is sometimes a full-time job, but often it is not.

Knowing whether the plaintiff had a full-time job is very important, as it will affect the level of remuneration owed to them. Often the plaintiff will insist they were in a full-time role, and they worked long hard hours.

Determining whether this is in fact the case requires knowledge of both agricultural systems and labour efficiency benchmarks for farm labour. On top of this, we need to ask the right questions:

  • How many sheep or cattle did they run?
  • How many hectares of crop did they harvest?
  • How many labour units did they employ to do this?
  • When do you sell stock, and when do you buy?
  • What type of stock and crop did you run?
  • Were the seasons good or bad over that time?
  • Did you ever change enterprise on the farm?
  • Do you use contactors?

These questions, and more, will all affect the final outcome.


In past cases we’ve found that although the plaintiff may have work long and hard hours, they must have squandered them into meaningless tasks because they just didn’t oversee enough on-farm production to warrant it! Consequently, their claims to full time salaries are unwarranted.

However, the converse may be true. Had they overseen more production; more sheep, more cows or more crop, than what may be expected, then they may be entitled to more than a full-time salary.

Overlay this process with the technical aspects of creating a methodology to compare labour used to on-farm production both within and across years and one can begin to appreciate that what was just a simple claim may not be so simple at all. Farm performance data coupled with a good interpretation allows us to calculate the expected farm salary of a farm worker.


Dr David Brown

David Brown was born and raised on a progressive sheep station in the far North West NSW. From an early age he has been working in the family business, and since 2010 David has been incorporating his practical experience into his profession role as an farm business consultant.

A PhD graduate, David has skills in sheep and cattle production systems, whole farm performance analysis, investment appraisal and general farm economics. David loves working with farmers to improve their businesses, and digging into empirical data to find the answers to agricultures toughest questions.