Focus Farms - Well managed dairy farms

 “Well managed dairy farms – cementing the fundamentals in the Gippsland dairy industry” is a co-investment with GippsDairy, Dairy Australia and the Gardiner Foundation that builds a capacity in farm business systems to better understand and analyse the impact of on-farm development options. The initiative introduces a range of farmers and service providers to the inherent complexity of decision making on farm, and to the potential value of any particular intervention or change to the business. A key outcome is the capacity in industry leaders to better analyse their farm business in the face of future challenges.

Dairy farm businesses are facing demonstrably more complex production environment with marked increases in the volatility of movements in markets, input costs and farm profitability. This has tested the viability and resilience of Gippsland dairy farmers, and is challenging the industry more broadly in its ability to develop and maintain the capability to deal with this increasingly complex landscape. It is essential that farmers and service providers have the capacity to analyse their whole farm business (eg production, fixed costs, debt servicing) and be able to evaluate possible options for change. 

Critical to the success of the project is the process by which industry is engaged. Capacity is built through a carefully designed and implemented “Focus Farm model” that is based on group facilitation and empowerment. This draws out the conversation and interpretations around business performance and risk, and it’s through this interactive supported discussion that key learnings are embedded. 

The additional component of capacity building is the development of promising young service providers through mentoring by industry leaders. The aim is to improve their understanding of farm businesses, their capacity to understand the impact of any future change in a farm business, and to evaluate potential adaptation options.

The legacy of the project will be a more resilient dairy industry as a result of improved farm managers and service providers.

This project is the delivery of the GippsDairy Focus Farm project, this project model has been used in Gippsland for the last 14 years. The project focuses on a farming family or enterprise and aims to improve operating surplus through improved understanding of operational costs and by maximising home grown feed and reducing fixed costs.  This is achieved by close monitoring of finances, production and family issues.  

 Dairying is the biggest agricultural contributor to Gippsland’s local economy and it employs over 3,500 people on farm. In 2012/13, it produced 20.6% of national production.

The capacity to make sound decisions in an increasingly complex environment ultimately drives the ability for farms to maintain a financial margin no matter what changes are encountered. Constancy of maintaining a financial margin (either through increased productivity and/or reduced costs) creates resilience and wealth for dairyfarmers.

This project aims to provide farmers with objective information and supported decision-making, so farmers better understand their key profit drivers and risk areas. This will enable them to become more analytical in managing their businesses and ultimately optimise their profitability.

This project targets farmers, but also targets service providers and associated professionals who are key industry influencers. A key outcome is an increased capacity in these crucial audiences to more critically understand complex farm business systems and be able to evaluate any potential change to that business. GippsDairy is repeatedly told at its annual farmer consultation meetings that there is a paucity of service providers with expertise in the technical aspects of dairying as well as a good grasp of the business side.

 Outcomes from this project for the industry:

  • Increased capacity to understand and analyse farm systems allowing better adaption to major industry challenges, leading to more profitable and resilient dairy farms.
  • ndividual dairy farmers have increased skills and confidence to make business decisions.  The farmers involved have better understanding of their business structure and have the skills to analyse their performance and make informed decisions.
  • Development of more holistic skills for the service industry through the investment in young service providers.
  • Farmers exposed to more questioning about development options for their farm business that ultimately leads to greater resilience.
  • Information dissemination structure in place to react to the next challenge.

See our Focus Farmers had to say in our 2012-13 Annual Report.