DairyNZ DairyBase manager Tania Smith explains how the service has evolved, and we meet two farming couples who've benefited from it.
The launch of DairyBase in 2006 was a ground-breaking moment, making it possible to record the financial performance and physical aspects of dairy farms across New Zealand. By collecting this information, DairyBase could show farmers how they compared with industry standards, and areas where improvements could be made.
Until DairyBase came along the only comparison figures available were those in the Economic Survey of New Zealand Dairy Farmers, which provided results from only 500 businesses. Another big DairyBase achievement was standardising the physical and financial reporting and calculations – terms like return on assets (ROA) and economic farm surplus (EFS).
Since its launch, the number of farm businesses participating in DairyBase has grown from around 800 to more than 2500. Two farmers who have used DairyBase since its inception share their experiences further down this article.
Over the last 10 years, DairyBase has been developed in response to farmer feedback. It's now easier to use and offers more benchmarks. There has never been a better time to join DairyBase.
Towards the future
The range of data, information and insights provided to farmers and the industry through DairyBase will continue to be improved.
Our immediate focus is to allow farmers to benchmark against monthly live data throughout the year, in line with two-monthly GST periods. Previously, farmers only had access to annual benchmarks.
Meanwhile, a connectivity strategy will see DairyBase extend existing partnerships and build new partnerships with key industry organisations such as milk suppliers, banks, cashbook companies, accountants and farm consultants to enable data sharing. This will reduce data entry, make it easier for farmers to get DairyBase analyses, and benefit farming businesses by enhancing the quality of industry data.
New reporting features
Over the last 18 months DairyBase’s IT redevelopment programme has modernised the platform, creating new functionality and reports. These exciting new features will be released during 2017.
DairyBase key facts
- Nearly 2500 farmers now use DairyBase, up from 617 in 2006.
- DairyBase provides owner operator and sharemilker business data to the annual DairyNZ Economic Survey.
- DairyNZ uses DairyBase data when advocating for farmers (e.g. environmental policy development), using information collected through the Baseline Project.
- DairyBase fuels financial conversations at farmer discussion groups, helping ensure confident and effective farm management decisions.
- Dairy farm systems consultants can use DairyBase to support their financial management and benchmarking advice.
Farmers benefit from a decade of data
Around 100 farmers have used DairyBase from the beginning. Here, two of those farmers share their DairyBase experiences.
Eileen and Shane Walker, farm owners, Southland
DairyNZ’s DairyBase provided hard evidence when Gore dairy farmers Eileen and Shane Walker needed it most.
Four years ago the couple decided to reduce their milking frequency from twice to once a day. Before making this decision they sought advice and data from a range of sources, including DairyBase.
“For several years we had used once-a-day at both ends of the season,” says Eileen.
“Before changing completely, we pulled up the once-aday reports from DairyBase, which we used to check that our budgeting figures were realistic and to reassure ourselves that we were doing the right thing.”
DairyBase offers two types of benchmarking – the business’s financial performance and the farm’s physical aspects – and compares them to industry standards or targets. To make comparisons easy, both set out farm information in a standard format.
The standardised information has helped the Walkers show progress.
“We get a lot of people enquiring about once-a-day, so we use DairyBase more now to show visitors and different people how our farm compared to others. You forget what is happening season-to-season, so it provides a really good record,” says Eileen.
Stephanie and Shane Whitmore, 50:50 sharemilkers, Taranaki
Shane Whitmore attributes being in the top 20 percent of 50:50 sharemilkers to efficiency gains made through regular use of DairyBase.
“We can compare our business to 50 other Taranaki farms – as well as nationally – and compare costs, where we could spend more money, or what is costing us more in power, feed or in the reproductive side of the business,” says Shane.
He and his wife Stephanie have 50:50 sharemilked on the same Taranaki farm since 2002. Their system 3 operation achieves very good production, and consistent, tight control over farm working expenses.
Through using DairyBase, Shane has been able to achieve a greater harvest, which has resulted in better feed utilisation and increased production.
“I get better quality feed at the peak growth times as well, and I seem to be getting more output.”
The Whitmores’ results compare favourably with the top 20 percent, which is important to Shane.
“If you can get into the top 20 percent, it means the goals you are striving for in your business – whether that’s growing your assets or whatever – you can achieve faster.”
Shane says he swears by DairyBase and believes there are always ways to improve.
“It’s also about trying to keep up with the latest technology. If you don’t realise where you can make gains, DairyBase can show you where you can do that.”
To register visit dairynz.co.nz/dairybase.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy April 2017