DairyNZ invests the farmer levy to produce a comprehensive range of farm assessment tools, resources and support. These aim to make life easier for farmers, their people and animals – without sacrificing profitability or environmental sustainability. Hosting a discussion group is just one item in our toolbox, and it was a useful tool for Kyla and Craig Morgan, Bay of Plenty contract milkers in their fourth season.
Before hosting their group, the Morgans first went through a whole farm assessment (a broad systems analysis of their farm business). These are carried out by trained rural professionals, including DairyNZ consulting officers (COs), who visit the farm and lead a structured discussion with the farm owner. Strengths, weaknesses, risks and opportunities are identified across all components of the business. The result is a comprehensive report and succinct action plan providing a pathway for the farm business team.
The couple then worked with their local DairyNZ CO, Kevin McKinley, to assess all areas of the farm business as part of setting up their discussion group. “Kevin did a pre-visit which made us formalise the sorts of ideas we wanted to generate from the group,” says Craig. “Hosting a DairyNZ discussion group was easier than we expected and it mainly confirmed what we thought: that we were understocked.” Kyla agrees: “There was definitely potential for more stock to eat more grass and improve production and profit".
Their experience shows how discussion groups provide insights into new ways of doing things, help farmers share knowledge and inspire them with the confidence to implement new practices. “The discussion group has been good,” says Craig. “It gave us a kick in the pants to get on with things. It reinforced what we had in the back of our minds.”
Other resources in DairyNZ's farm assessment toolbox include Mark and Measure, a three-day training course where farmers can learn key business concepts and skills, and gain confidence to achieve their own unique picture of personal and business success. There’s also Farm Gauge, a quick and easy online self-assessment tool that looks at eight areas of the farm system, helping farmers to identify areas of opportunity and guiding them to the next steps.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy December 2018