Is this season really such a big challenge?

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Posted by Brendon Walsh on 17 January 2018

Dry land nz 2

What a challenging farming season we are having here in NZ! Many areas had the wettest winter to mid spring ever, making mud and reducing feed. Then, a dry late spring/early summer put pressure on pasture covers, water supplies, stock condition and processing space. After that, a wet Christmas/New Year period preceded some extremely hot weather. Through all that the livestock markets varied quite a bit, up and down. Whew! A lot to cope with and many farmers have felt very much “under the pump!” But when you think about it, is the season really such a big challenge?

For some farmers yes, it is, among debt, low profit, tight feed supplies and pugging effects for example. If any farmers and their families are having real problems dealing with this, please seek help. There are some great agencies, individuals and friends out there to provide the help you might need.

The reason I ask if the season is really such a big challenge is that objectively questioning and analysing our perceptions of situations (such as this season), reveals how we often create a lot of unnecessary stress and worry. This all adds to the pressure we naturally bring on ourselves. I say unnecessary because if we can see these situations for what they really are, we can learn to work with them to create advantages instead of feeling backed into a corner.

How we view these situations depends on our perspective of challenge and opportunity; and climate and market variability provide both challenge and opportunity. Sometimes the opportunity is the flip side of the challenge e.g. a dry period may provide stress through having to feed a lot of animals with little pasture, or (if planned for ahead of time) it may provide the opportunity to offload some animals, preserve pasture cover, take a break with the family and enter the market again at lower values later in the dry period. Our perspectives have been built up through training, experience and choice over time, and this means we can change them right now if we choose to.

Here’s the thing: the climate does what the climate does - we have no control over that. So, let’s not get too worried about the fact these things might happen - let’s accept that they will happen at some point! What we can control is our response to those things, specifically how we plan for the possibility of those things happening. If we can proactively respond to them (before they occur) rather than reactively respond (after they occur), we have far better chances of coming through those occurrences in great shape.

By proactively responding, we can think through the possible occurrences well before the period in question arrives (when the pressure is not on). We can also devise and run different scenarios through our support tools and systems. We can assess the risks of each one occurring and the likely effects. We can plan outcomes under those scenarios. Then, we can keep monitoring leading up to those likely occurrences to make some pretty solid business decisions.

For example, I have just finished speaking with a client who recently weaned their lambs 1 month earlier than usual, and sold 80% of them at weaning (prime and store). They had never been in a position to be able to do this before but it was a possibility they were well set up for this year. They did it because the store market turned upwards post rain and the lambs were heavier than ever.  The outcome was brilliant. They had been monitoring the markets, had their very good livestock agent lined up and ready, and had fed their ewes and lambs optimally through spring and early summer (by being planned since last autumn). Therefore, the lambs were in great condition and they had mobs reasonably close to the yards. Better values were achieved earlier and they now have extra dry matter available, allowing choices.

This situation has provided the banking of good profits, a lower workload through summer, a spell for the pasture and the setting up of opportunity (pasture and animal options) for the late summer/autumn. If the lambs were carried on another month there is a strong possibility that their values would drop anyway, rendering a loss from the feed eaten over that period. We shall see on that one. Either way they are rapt at being ahead of the game and excited about the future possibilities.

Regardless of your situation, whatever ends up happening is less of an issue because you are prepared and have scenarios already run. The focus remains on what you can do to stay ahead of the game to achieve what is most important to you.

When you think about it there really is no other focus, is there?!

If you are curious about how the GrowFARM® System helps sheep and beef farmers take control of their businesses and unlock their potential, contact me here.

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  • Thanks Malcolm!

    Posted by Brendon Walsh, 19/01/2018 8:37am (4 years ago)

  • Great article Brendon. Control what you can control.

    Posted by Malcolm Frost, 19/01/2018 8:31am (4 years ago)

  • Thinking ahead and being clued up on options - for many it's a whole new ball game. Those who have traditionally responded to 'weather' and then looked at the markets are not going to make sufficient profits under climate change. It will require thinking, planning and teamwork. The days of relying on 'what happened in years past' isn't going to cope with the 'new climate' with big dries, big wets and much bigger storms. This is the way things will be, and those who aren't costing their feed ahead of time, and being ready to sell and buy when there are real profits to be made won't be popular with their banks, and life will be one long worry. Planning may be a new skill, but it works.

    Posted by Sue Edmonds, 19/01/2018 8:07am (4 years ago)