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Beyond the Bale : Oct - Nov 08
Leadership Beyond the Bale Business planning essential to profit The Young Breeders Leadership Program has helped South Australian producer Matthew Fiebig separate profit from sentiment and focus on profitability via genetics the course. We operate across two sites, with my grandfather, uncle and cousin running one farm and my father and I on the other, and it was important for us all to be moving in the same direction with one action plan. “Business planning made me realise that if an enterprise does not result in profit at the end of the day, it’s not worth doing, and you can waste a lot of time if all the people involved are not moving in the same direction.” That focus, Matthew says, also illustrated to him he was making many decisions using sentiment rather than dollars and cents. “Just because that was how we’d always done it didn’t mean it was the best way. We had to listen to our clients and by focusing on profitability in our own operation we realised we had to provide genetics that would result in an easy-to-manage Merino flock with low input costs. “You can have a sheep that cuts heaps of wool that returns you more dollars but costs you a lot to produce, which may not necessarily mean it’s a profitable sheep.” The Fiebig’s ‘Hilton Heath Merino Stud’, based at Sanderston and Keith, started in the late 1960s, and today aims to produce large, plain-bodied sheep with 20 to 21-micron wool. The enterprise runs 3000 commercial ewes and 1000 stud ewes. In the past five years the stud has introduced bare-breech genetics to help clients not only phase out mulesing by the end of 2010, but also breed more easy-care profitable sheep. Although the assessment of the results from introducing this genetic trait are yet to be analysed in detail, Matthew says a fertility gain has already been noticed. Since completing the course, Matthew has found Matthew Fiebig with the foundation sire used to develop his ‘new generation’ of bare-breech sheep. By Kellie Penfold W hen Matthew Fiebig competed in junior Merino judging competitions as a teenager he was often up against 40 or so competitors. Move ahead 17 years and at this year’s Adelaide Show he saw only eight entrants in the same event. This illustrates to Matthew the need to foster talent and encourage young people to stick with the Merino industry, which he says has a lot to offer someone wanting to make a living from the land. A Merino stud operator from Keith in south-east South Australia, 32-year-old Matthew was one of 20 stud industry members under the age of 40 to participate last year in an AWI-funded Young Breeders Leadership Program, which was run by SA-based consultants, Rural Directions in partnership with the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders. “It is hard in the current conditions to keep people enthused about farming and livestock production and anything industry can do to support those who are wanting to have a go is really helpful,” Matthew says. Initially sceptical about what he might pick up from participating in such a course, Matthew had his opinions challenged from day one. First-up was a personality test, which helped participants categorise their own personality and understand how other people think. “It gave me an insight into why our clients respond the way they do. Some are information-fixated, so I need to have plenty of data ready for them,” he says. “Others find it hard to make a decision so they might need a bit of reassurance.” However, it was strategic business planning and goal setting that proved the most valuable lessons for Matthew, who runs the property with his wife Leini and his parents Trevor and Wendy. “Already I can see we have changed our business to being more focused on livestock production and less on cropping because of what I learnt in his new network of other young stud operators from around the country invaluable. Today at sheep shows he looks forward to catching up with fellow participants. Networking, he says, can help avoid problems that come from a fragmented industry. A fellow stud breeder may be 800 kilometres away in another state, but with just an email Matthew can find they are experiencing similar challenges. “The world wants protein and the world wants clean, green fibres. The sheep industry can supply that and I’d encourage any young person thinking of a career in agriculture to consider sheep – but, in the cold, hard light of day, it has to be profitable,” he emphasises. Speaking from experience, Matthew says it is essential to thoroughly understand profit drivers, which is why he supports industry-driven programs such as the leadership course. More information: Matthew Fiebig, firstname.lastname@example.org ú PHOTO: MeLISSA MARINO
Dec 08 - Jan 09
Aug - Sep 08