The Mid-Coast Adaptable Dairy Farming Systems Project is an initiative of the Mid-Coast Dairy Advancement Group (MCDAG) and Hunter Local Land Services, supported by funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.
The project aims to take a real life dairy farm and generate discussion on how to best manage the business, and approach risk, to improve adaptability, resilience and overall profitability.
This model of extension challenges farmer decision making and practice change on the whole farm system, and explores the outcomes of these on the triple bottom line of the farm. It provides an opportunity for farmers and industry service providers to learn through discussion and debate, and by challenging one another through the real life scenario of the local farm.
The Adaptable Dairy Farm
The farm that would become the focus of the project had to be a business that was challenged by external influences typical of the Mid-Coast dairy region. These include milk price structure, access to agribusiness services, grain pricing, transport and haulage costs and kikuyu and annual ryegrass pasture base.
A search was conducted for a Mid-Coast dairy farming business operated by motivated young farmers who were serious about seeking external opinion on how to best manage their business over a two year period.
Pat and Louise Neal, and their farming business on Oxley Island (approximately 20 km east of Taree), were the successful applicants. The Neals were chosen as they demonstrated a real desire to scrutinise their business decisions and to explore innovative practices which could possibly reduce their exposure to financial, environmental and personal risk.
Meet the Neals
Pat and Louise Neal own and operate their farm on Oxley Island, NSW, with a year round calving herd of 390. They consider their farming system a “low input” operating system which concentrates on driving production through feeding quality home grown pasture and conserving excess, when available, by implementing a carefully managed grazing strategy.
How the project is conducted
The Mid-Coast Adaptable Dairy Farm is a real business, making real decisions, under real conditions; what is happening on farm is relevant for many other dairy businesses on the Mid-Coast and beyond.
The intent is to focus on core financial and personal goals set at the commencement of the project through a Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis, lift profit and increase efficiencies through improved decision making. The progress of the farm is tracked over time as it makes daily, seasonal and longer-term business decisions. Environmental sustainability and resource efficiency outcomes are also considered when exploring broader farm business options and making decisions.
The focus farm is supported by:
- Applying good business management principles to decision making
- Allowing the opportunity for discussion and analysis of the risks
- Drawing on the collective experience of an Adaptable Business Support Group
- Monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of the decisions that are made
Adaptable Business Support Group and open days
The Neals recruited their own Adaptable Business Support Group (ABSG) members, made up of farmer peers and service providers, such as their accountant, finance advisor and vet, who provide guidance, encouragement and decision support to the farm. This group meets bi-monthly on the farm. It is facilitated by leading Victorian dairy consultant Phil Shannon of Shannon Farm Consulting.
Some of these meetings are open days, where other members of the dairy community can attend.
How do you choose the right calving pattern for your business? Does calving pattern really matter?
Keep up to date with the project
Bookmark this page for regular updates on the project. ABSG progress reports will be uploaded here after each meeting:
- Progress Report 1 - July 2016 - Foundations & Fundamentals Two Day Workshop
- Progress Report 2 - August 2016 - First on-farm field day
- Progress Report 3 - October 2016 - Second on-farm field day
- Progress Report 4 - January 2017- Third on-farm field day
- Progress Report 5 - March 2017 - Fourth on-farm field day
- Progress Report 6 - May 2017 - Open Day 2
Read the Neals' 2017 Fert$mart - Feriliser Management Plan here.
To find out anything further on the project, please contact Marguerite White, Project Manager, ICD Project Services at email@example.com or phone: 0447 500 415.