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Beyond the Bale : March 2016
ON FARM 31 For instance, they tend to apply more phosphorus fertiliser (per hectare and per DSE), which means they are growing more grass and utilising it well. “They manage their supplementary feed costs well so that enterprise costs are not increased per DSE, despite higher stocking rates. They are also slightly more labour efficient and keep overhead costs modest.” Detailed information, categorised by enterprise type and region, is available at www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/ livestock/farm-monitor-project Looking beyond the figures, what are some of the things that the top farmers consistently do well that others might be able to learn from? PERSONALITY TRAITS AFFECT PROFITABILITY Mr Blackshaw says there are social and personality traits the top farmers possess that differentiates them from the ‘average’ farmers. For instance, the top performers really love talking about their farm, learning new things and running ideas past other people. “These producers are very passionate about their farm, which gives them a real drive that translates into being successful in their business. They are hungry for knowledge and keen to find and discuss new things – and happy to think outside the box. “They seek advice when required, and they’re not afraid to spend a bit of money on a consultant. “All the successful producers are part of a network or discussion group, be it a formal group like BESTWOOL/BESTLAMB or informal like having a beer on a Friday night with their neighbours and talking about what’s happening on their farms. “They really have a mindset to make the most out of their farm, and make the most money out of their farm too. This often involves taking on some level of risk, which might mean borrowing money, and interestingly this can actually keep farmers more focused on their goals. However, Mr Blackshaw says the top farmers tend to have already found their ‘sweet’ spot: “This might mean them being happy with the type of enterprise they’re running, or the size of the enterprise. If you love just love Merinos, that’s what you should focus on because it’s your passion.” PUSHING THE FARM SYSTEM Mr Blackshaw says the top farmers are all trying to squeeze as much productivity out of their farms. “They’re all really pushing their system – sensibly and sustainably. We see that in the data, such as with the higher stocking rates.” Most of them have got multiple enterprises on their farm too, but not too many enterprises. Once they get more than two or three, Mr Blackshaw says the farm business starts getting complicated and none of the enterprises tend to be run particularly well. “It’s partly about spreading the risk, but there’s also got to be some complementarity between the enterprises, so cattle might follow the sheep well in the system, or they might have a little bit of cropping. “The best farmers tend to have intimate knowledge of their farm and really know how to get the most from their land, such as knowing which paddocks grow the most feed. However a lot of them also take the opportunity of leasing a neighbour’s property or an adjoining paddock for a couple of years if they come available. “They also do some rotational grazing, tailored for what they want to do on their property.” Mr Blackshaw says the top farmers measure only the things that matter to them – such as condition scoring ewes – and don’t measure everything that happens on their farm. The do tend to undertake regular soil testing though and use fertilizer judicially: “They’re not blanket fertilizing the whole farm, they are testing and going through the numbers and asking whether fertilizer for a particular area is economically viable for them.” The good farmers also focus on the genetics that really mean something to them, according to Mr Blackshaw. “They seek those genetics that will help them achieve their objectives. They buy good genetics, but they don’t get too hung up on it.” RUNNING THEIR BUSINESS AS A BUSINESS Mr Blackshaw says the top farmers run their farming business like any other business, not like a hobby or a lifestyle. “They are really thinking about it as a business, such as looking at their returns every year and what they can change and improve. They’ve usually got a business plan – and it’s usually written down and reviewed. So it might be something that says in the next five years they want to grow the business by a certain amount, and it might involve how different family members are involved in the farm. “They do cash flow budgeting, with some farmers regularly doing updates and comparing their budgets to actual as they go through the year. These people use it as a really important management tool so they know how that farm is going to perform in the next 12 months.” Mr Blackshaw also says the top producers have the capacity to get through difficult times: “This includes a financial capacity: when things get tight they still have the capacity to keep making money and growing – and mental capacity: they know they’ve been through tough times before and come out alright, and so they know they can deal with tough times again.” They’re using contractors and contract labour as required. “So when they have periods of peak work or they have tasks that need specialised expertise, they go out and buy that labour. They’ve worked out what they’re good at and what they’re not good at and they bring in people to do the stuff that they’re not really so good at themselves.” Mr Blackshaw also says most of the top livestock producers are selling stock direct, such as to the abattoir, processor or feedlot. Most of them are still using an agent even though some are a bit reluctant and uncomfortable that it’s costing them money. If they use an agent, they make sure they are really working for them, adding value their business. MORE INFORMATION www.wool.com/bestwoolbestlamb Paul Blackshaw: 02 6030 4502 firstname.lastname@example.org WHAT THE TOP FARMERS CONSISTENTLY DO WELL PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS • Passionate and driven, and love talking about their farm. • Open and enquiring mind, with a hunger for knowledge and information. • Mindset to make the most out of their farm. • Part of a farming network or discussion group. • Appetite to take on risk. • Found their ‘sweet’ spot in business. FARM SYSTEM • Really push their farm system. • Have multiple enterprises, but not too many. • Know their farm and its land very well. • Seek advice when required. • Buy good genetics, but don’t get too hung up on it. • Measure only the things that matter to them. • Regular soil testing and use fertilizer wisely. • Rotationally graze, to a degree. • Lease additional land when available. BUSINESS TRAITS • Treat their business like a business. • Do cash flow budgeting, with regular updates and comparison to actuals. • Have a business plan – written down and reviewed. • Financial and mental capacity to get through difficult times. • Use contractors and contract labour as required. • Sell direct – if using an agent, make them work.
In the Shops - March 2016