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Beyond the Bale : Oct 07 - Nov 07
By Melissa Marino Warren Hunt likens 8x5 to adult education. But, far removed from the classroom, the 8x5 Wool Profit Program provides learning for growers on-farm in small, hands-on groups. "We try to be innovative and especially interactive," Mr Hunt, the program's coordinator, says. "We get out and kick the dirt around, walk around the sheep yards, do some hands-on, and talk. "It's a big change from someone just delivering a lecture," he says. "This is higher learning woolgrower style." Mr Hunt joined the program just over a year ago to focus on extension -- on building communication, grower networks and the program's reach. "It's readily available, easy to pick up and uses commonsense adult education," he says. "It's dealing with pragmatic people." At the heart of the 8x5 Wool Profit Program are more than 80 self-selecting members in eight grower groups in Tasmania who meet regularly and set priorities to ensure the program remains relevant to their needs. These priorities become the topics of forums, and information flowing from them is dispersed to the wider, 850-strong wool-growing population of Tasmania, either by email or printed newsletter. Several growers interstate and internationally also receive the information. "AWI has funded a very powerful network," Mr Hunt says of the grower-driven program, run by his employer, "It's focusing on getting growers the best returns so in all our considerations we have a commercial check," he says. "If someone has a proposal and wants to plug into our network we ask 'what commercial returns will this deliver to growers?' " As the 8x5 Program Advisory Panel chair, Mr Walch is a conduit between the growers and Mr Hunt -- a "formal sounding board" helping to set a strategic direction for the program and ensuring that topics covered remain relevant to growers in their pursuit of strengthening their enterprises. Mr Hunt, an extension specialist, is pleased that the program is effecting change. With such encouraging uptake from growers and with groups entrenched, he expects the program may again turn towards research opportunities -- where it began -- to eventually host research, development and extension under the one 8x5 banner. "Essentially, the role of the program is to keep our industry competitive," he says. "And staying competitive means making the right management decisions, in drought for example. It means making the best animal-health decisions throughout a 12-month period. It means getting your pastures more productive. It's all those things, they all tally up." ú More information: Warren Hunt, 03 6336 5464, 0437 170 670, www.8x5.com.au Profit program extends hand At the heart of Tasmania's 8x5 Wool Profit Program are eight grower groups who meet regularly and determine the program's priorities, driving their industry's competitiveness Tasmanian woolgrower Chris Headlam with his recently constructed drought lots. PHOTOS: MELISSA MARINO 16 8x5 WOOL PROFIT PROGRAM BEYOND THE BALE the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research at the University of Tasmania. There is also in-kind support from the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water. "We offer a coordinating role, but the groups are in charge of their own destiny," he says. "We've done a rough analysis on their enterprises to identify holes and give a bit of direction, and then the groups decide where they want to go." Topics targeted by the program to date include financial benchmarking, pastures, animal health and flock fertility. Recently, the focus has been driven by drought, Mr Hunt says, with sessions on drought lotting, stock stress and the psychological health of woolgrowers themselves illustrating the relevance and responsiveness of the program. First named 8x5 to reflect the target of an eight per cent return on net assets within five years, woolgrower James Walch, who helped conceive the program in 2003, says extension is now the priority as the program enters 'phase two'.Mr Walch believes an eight per cent target is actually an historical benchmark, because he feels growers now need at least a 20 per cent return to remain truly sustainable in the long term. And while he concedes they cannot change economic policies or world trading trends that could help establish such gains, he believes the aims of the 8x5 program and its inclusive approach will help growers achieve their own particular goals.
Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
Dec - Jan 08