Taking Stock sets farmer up for new year

06 Feb, 2019 04:00 AM
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Greg Heffernan says a Taking Stock consultation helped set him on the right track to better manage this season.
The consultant came and sat down with us and helped us to work out the easiest way to buy hay.
Greg Heffernan says a Taking Stock consultation helped set him on the right track to better manage this season.

Greg Heffernan believes failing to plan means planning to fail.

The Bega, NSW, dairy farmer has used Dairy Australia's Taking Stock program to not only get through a tough drought period, but also to set his goals for next autumn's growing season.

Taking Stock, which offers a free farm visit by a consultant of choice, helps the dairy farm business assess its current financial and physical position and create an action plan.

Mr Heffernan, who runs a 260-hectare farm with wife Kellie and his extended family, said Taking Stock helped the business develop short-term tactics about feed options while helping him to set concrete plans to move forward into 2019.

"We were getting tight for money with the drought and we had to work out what we were going to do over the next few months if it didn't rain," he said.

"The consultant came and sat down with us and helped us to work out the easiest way to buy hay."

One of the aspects of Taking Stock that impressed Mr Heffernan was the holistic approach that it took to looking at the farm business

"The consultant actually drove around the whole farm to have a look at the cows and paddocks -- it wasn't just a sit in the office sort of thing," he said.

"He got a good picture in his head of where we were at and then came up with some good solutions for what we could do if it didn't rain."

"It made sure we were spending what money we had wisely, instead of wasting it. It sort of refreshed our thinking about a few things."

One of the practical outcomes from the Taking Stock was helping Mr Heffernan and his family make the right decisions about accessing money to cover short-term cashflow problems.

"We were wondering if we should go to the government and get a low-interest loan that's available in drought declared areas, just so we could buy hay," he said.

"But he recommended we pull out some Farm Managed Deposits, which ended up being a cheaper way to top the cash flow up until it rained."

With spring rain finally putting some grass in front of the cows, Mr Heffernan has turned his attention to summer and autumn to ensure he can start building a feed wedge as soon as conditions are right.

The Taking Stock consultation convinced him to plant summer crops, which can either be used for forage or, better still, put in the pit for a later date. With his sorghum and millet up and running, he is now planning his strategy for the autumn break.

"I start spraying in late December, then start to fallow the paddocks for sowing in February," Mr Heffernan said

"At the first sign of rain, I have the seed and the drill ready and then once I start I don't stop for six weeks.

"I did Feeding Pastures for Profit a few years ago and since then, I have followed the cows with the seeder, paddock by paddock, and then I build my feed wedge through autumn and spring."

Dairy Australia's Neil Webster said Mr Heffernan's experience with Taking Stock was reflected across dairy farming regions, where farmers dealing with challenging conditions have found the program to be well worth their time.

"It's a free service that is really making a difference to the way dairy farmers tackle the dry conditions and how they plan ahead for when the rains do return," Mr Webster said.

Dairy Australia's Taking Stock program can be booked by dairy farmers across the country, including farmers who are not facing drought conditions.

Sessions take place on farm, are private and confidential, and aim to help farmers map out a plan for the season ahead including next steps.

The consultation is focused on providing customised advice tailored to the needs of each individual farm and may include any physical, financial and people issues that are identified, resulting in a tailored action plan.

This could include:

  • Feed options, planning and budgeting.
  • Managing a fodder shortage.
  • Herd decisions and animal health.
  • Cash budgeting.
  • Managing the farm team during tough times.
  • Meeting the bank.
  • Book a free Taking Stock session by contacting the local Regional Development Program.

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