For our final blog post for 2022 we invited a very special grazier, Amanda Young, to share her thoughts on how her year went and what she’s looking forward to in 2023.
Initially starting out as our customer, Amanda then joined the MaiaGrazing team whilst also running Three Leaf Pastoral, a cattle trading enterprise in NSW, Australia, with her partner Rafe. We’ve also included seasonal greetings from our executives, Peter Richardson, Ashely Silver, and Bart Davidson – check out the video. Happy Holidays!
By Amanda Young
It’s the festive season once again! A time to enjoy with family and friends, and hopefully an opportunity for everyone to put their feet up and take a break.
Watch our executives, (left to right) Peter Richardson, Ashley Silver, and Bart Davidson share their message of hope in this video
For me, the festive season is not only about celebrating the highs and enjoying life at a slower pace for a week or two, it’s also the right time to reflect on the year that was, and start planning for the year ahead. I try to stop thinking about the things that tend to keep me awake at night during the year – the rising cost of living, cattle prices, the weather – and refocus on the things I can control as I look at what’s ahead of me.
Every Christmas seems to come around faster than the one before, and if I don’t dedicate some time to planning during the end of year break, it’s suddenly February, things are happening at their usual chaotic pace on the farm, and I feel like I’m already on the back foot!
I’ll admit at this point that I do enjoy planning for the year ahead; I’m not one for making New Year’s Resolutions yet there’s something quite exciting and empowering about having 365 days’ worth of opportunities in front of you to work with. We’ve enjoyed three years of extremely good rainfall and rising markets in my part of the world (my heart goes out to those who are experiencing the other end of the scale), it feels like there’s never been a better time to be in agriculture, yet I can’t help but feel that we may be saddling up for a bronc ride rather than a trail ride as we head into 2023. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Uncertainty is the only certainty
As Christmas approaches and I reflect on the year that was, I’m reminded that the only certainty is in fact uncertainty. A year ago, I wouldn’t have dared to dream that our rolling rainfall was about to keep climbing and stay high all year, or that I was about to buy the most expensive cattle I’ve ever come across, only to watch the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) nosedive – not once, but twice – by the end of 2022. I might have guessed an economic downturn and some extreme weather events were on the horizon, but I certainly didn’t anticipate that a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) scare or a war in Ukraine could impact on the prices and markets that affect my business.
What’s the point of planning when we don’t know what lies ahead?
As farmers, either throwing our hands in the air, or sticking our fingers in our ears and singing tra-la-la, can feel like easier, or perhaps preferable options than latching with gusto onto the things that we can actually manage or influence. After all, we can’t control the weather, we don’t know what Putin or Zelenskyy might do next, and we have limited power to dictate the price we pay for inputs or the dollars we receive for what we produce. Throw in a few tumultuous years of extreme seasonal change and market volatility, and it’s easy to become complacent and feel like a small and somewhat insignificant cog in a very big and potentially out-of-control wheel.
This is the very reason why having a plan is so important. We are so much more than small cogs; as our co-founder Bart Davidson reminds us in the video above, we’re actually changing the world one graze at a time. Collectively, we’re doing a very important thing!
So how do we, as those that change the world one graze at a time, effectively plan for the year ahead when we swim in a sea of constant change?
For many Australians, and indeed many of our friends and customers overseas, we’re facing the likelihood that La Nina (and the rainfall that comes with it) is dwindling, livestock prices will continue to correct as seasonal change progresses, and we’re unlikely to avoid the impact of a global economic downturn. External factors such as these are more than just distractions; they impact our livelihood, yet staying in our lane and focusing our energy on the decisions we make in our own businesses is the best strategy for successfully navigating their impact.
We cannot manage what we do not measure
To manage or change anything – in our case the world, one graze at a time – we first need to understand and take stock of what we’re currently doing. We need to actually measure this and record our findings, so we can manage and make sound decisions in the face of whatever is thrown our way.
Some farmers will argue that you actually can manage what you don’t measure, using the observations, knowledge and gut feel that’s developed after many years on the land. I’m yet to hear this from one who has successfully managed this way through tough seasons, weather events and dynamic markets without paying a significant financial or emotional price. Those that measure aren’t throwing observations, knowledge and gut feel out the window, they’re simply putting this skill set to work in a more effective way.
In my role at MaiaGrazing, I often talk to farmers who are a bit overwhelmed by concepts such as graze planning and don’t really know where to start, and that’s totally normal and understandable. It’s because a graze plan first requires an understanding of what’s in front of you, meaning what’s available (your pasture inventory) and what your demand is (your total DSE/LSU/SAU rating), and not everyone is confident that they can calculate that easily, effectively or accurately.
In my experience, measuring, recording and understanding what’s in front of you becomes quite a straightforward (and dare I say enjoyable) process when you use a tool such as MaiaGrazing.
It’s why we often describe the first year of using MaiaGrazing as being a data-building year; it’s a time for getting to know your numbers, so that you can confidently apply some rigour to the grazing decisions you then make in the future.
We’re only human after all
Let’s face it, life on the land can put you through the emotional ringer. The highs are brilliant, but the lows can be devastating. In tough times, such as the midst of a drought or a flood, we can become engulfed and overwhelmed by the sheer weight of what we’re going through, and it’s often too late or too exhausting to start planning. By this point, we’re caught up in the whirlwind of the day to day; it becomes a matter of putting one foot in front of another, looking at the data set that we’ve already built to guide us, and executing a plan we’ve hopefully already developed.
The good times are the best times to make plans and prepare for the not-so-good times. The challenge is, sometimes we become complacent and fail to acknowledge that we are experiencing good times. Every time I log in to MaiaGrazing and see the rolling rainfall figure for my properties, I’m reminded that these are exceptional times in my part of the world from a rainfall perspective, and I need to continue planning for a return to a more modest rolling rainfall figure.
Where I live in northwest New South Wales, we’ve recently experienced the highest number of consecutive days without rain since January 2020, so that return to lower rainfall could be accelerating and I’d better get my skates on! I’m already looking at the 15-day weather forecast so I can lock in the day with the nicest weather for a paddock walk, during which I’ll enter pasture assessments for each of my paddocks into MaiaGrazing so I can see how many days of feed I currently have in front of me.
Following that, I’ll no doubt have some fun with the Forecasting tool, which allows me to build as many rainfall – and subsequently, stocking rate scenarios on a whole property level for the next 3 to 12 months as I see fit, before drilling down into graze plans for specific mobs and paddocks. It’s much more fun than it probably sounds!
The value is in the planning, not the plan
Fun aside, and come what may, I’m looking forward to heading into 2023 with a solid grasp of what I’m working with on my properties, dynamic and easily accessible data at my fingertips, and some plans in place for scenarios that may or may not unfold. My plans might turn out to be really poor plans, but the value is in the planning process; plans can easily be changed. The peace of mind and confidence that comes from knowing that they exist is their greatest strength – just as anyone who had a biosecurity plan already in place when FMD dominated the news in July will attest!
Whether your focus in 2023 is digitising your data, refining your graze planning, investigating natural capital opportunities, or simply maintaining the momentum you’ve gathered in recent years, the team at MaiaGrazing is here to help; please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Enjoy a wonderful festive season – see you in 2023!
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