By Alec Duffy
Last month, I joined my teammates to attend an RCS Grazing Clinic in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia. The clinic ran over three days; including a two-day workshop where we learnt about the fundamentals of running a successful farming operation. It concluded with a field trip on the day three. RCS educator Nic Kentish was the primary educator. James Barnet and MaiaGrazing’s Chief Grazing Officer and Co-founder, Bart Davidson supported Nic.
Grazing management, livestock production, infrastructure planning and everything in between was covered over the three days – no stone was left unturned. As students, we were all eager to learn. And so we did. We learnt how to improve management decisions to help achieve business objectives using the RCS framework.
No doubt, the education and tools we were exposed to – including how to streamline planning with MaiaGrazing, set us on a path of better control and confidence.
The field trip was a highlight for all. It was located at Mundarlo (meaning “a place of much fog” in the local indigenous language), 50km east of Wagga Wagga. Regenerative advocate and producer Nick Austin, who is a generational farmer with roots in the area since the 1940s, generously hosted it. You can see photos of our day here.
Risk management – what we learnt
But back to what we all learnt. ‘Risk management’ was a common theme running throughout the clinic. No surprise – as we all know that farming is risky business. The producers who attended the clinic were looking for guidance and solutions to help them manage risk. While risk can certainly take all forms, the common ones that we discussed were drought, overstocking, and degeneration of land.
Nic, James and Bart did a great job at covering these topics; not by offering crystal balls but by showcasing solutions that can help producers get on the front foot. These include how to:
- Feed budgets
- Forecast stockflow
- Benchmark and analyse carrying capacity
It’s important to note that while mastering the above won’t remove all risk, there’s huge upsides. They can make graziers plan, manage, and monitor better when applied together as part of a grazing management plan. What I have often observed with our customers is that as time goes by, most find this seemingly daunting task easier as they form a natural habit.
Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.
The clinic also covered other facets of grazing and farm business planning. Here are my key takeaways:
Know your Numbers
Use data to help drive well-informed decisions
To make meaningful management decisions, we need to have the correct data on hand. For graziers, this includes everything from livestock information, to financial reports, to grazing data. Make sure you don’t get bogged down with information that provides no insight, or is simply sitting idly in your dusty files. Whether you’re recording your data on paper, in Microsoft Excel or a grazing management software like MaiaGrazing – it doesn’t matter initially. Just get into the habit of doing it regularly, and I’m confident that the results will eventually show.
Understand your Pasture Composition
Not every pasture is the same
Having a good understanding of pasture composition is critical to the success and management of all grazing operations. For instance in Australia, unlike the northern environments, there is less distinction between the growing and non-growing season in the southern environment. Hence there are more opportunities to fill the feed gap, such as jagging a late summer storm, to promote growth.
Graziers might want to assess a number of things. This includes the different species in paddock, mapping their growth curves, and matching the estimate supply against projected animal demand. In anticipation of feed gaps, put yourself in a position where you can make and act on decisions early – for example, by choosing to sow forage oats for a winter feed deficit.
Plan, manage and monitor business goals
Control your grazing management by anticipating risks
Most of us know that setting clear goals is fundamental to any business wanting to achieve success, and farming is no different. It is extremely important for farm owners to sit down together and agree on both short and long term business objectives. From there, these parties can identify challenges, discuss strategy and methods of execution, and realise opportunities that can support the goals that have been agreed on.
As there are many generational farmers and families who go into business together in our community, I believe that family needs and aspirations are also important. They should be factored in and be given strong weighting when designing business goals. All too often it is a crucial element that may be forgotten.
The clinic provided a great opportunity for my team and me to see how the work that we do here in MaiaGrazing is tied to what producers are doing on the ground. It also reinforced the importance of adhering to a framework, such as the RCS six principles of regenerative grazing, to provide guidance.
On behalf of all of us, I would like to say a big thank you to RCS for facilitating it. A special mention to Michael Gooden from the Riverina Local Land Services for supporting this great exercise. We’re so proud to be part of it.
You can find out more about the wonderful courses that RCS offers here.
Like to have the confidence to manage risk?
MaiaGrazing gives graziers control of their grazing management. Your data + our technology + our stable of professional RCS-trained graziers will accelerate your planning and forecasting.