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Taking Stock key to helping dairy farmers through price down turn

Friday 03 February 2017 | From Dairy Australia

Nine months on from this season’s farmgate price downturn and some of the dairy industry’s most experienced and respected farm consultants have accredited dairy farmer survival and endurance to successful planning out of Dairy Australia’s Taking Stock program.

To date about 900 dairy farmers have either completed or registered for Taking Stock across Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and southern NSW.

Three consultants from across Victoria’s dairying regions have all agreed the hundreds of farmers they have been dealing with are finding their situation is not as bad as first thought after completing one of the free, one-on-one Taking Stock sessions.

Gippsland advisor Matt Harms, from On Farm Consulting, said while the season had turned out more favourable in his region and input costs were down, it was the business analysis exercise which had clarified the situation for farmers.

“A lot of farmers swung into action quite quickly and the cost revision exercise they did initially has helped,” Mr Harms said.

“I’m not saying everyone is in a great position, but the majority I’m dealing with are saying it’s not quite as tough as what we thought it would be and that’s been because of the planning through Taking Stock. 

“What’s interesting is the transition of farmers before October to after October. I’ve dealt with just as many after October and they are much more strategic in their thinking and looking at where their business is heading. It’s much more of a big picture attitude now and this planning approach that DA has rolled out has taught farmers something more for next time. It has placed another level of decision making in the business.”

Northern Victorian farm consultant, Tom Farran from Farmanco, said initially there was a lot of stress and panic due to the assumption of very low incomes.

“But then many started to realise the cost of production was coming down and by doing Taking Stock they had a much better understanding of how the business had been performing and what areas they could look to address,” Mr Farran said.

“The benefit of Taking Stock is better planning, rather than making some wild guesses; these farmers knew exactly where they were at. It also helped many secure extra finance because the bank knew exactly where they were at and what they were trying to achieve.”

Mr Farran said he always found the most stressful time was before farmers made their plan.

“Once they go through the Taking Stock process and the budgeting and planning side, the stress is reduced a lot, even if the outcome doesn’t look great,” he said. “They are far more reassured knowing where they stand. And we are coming into another critical planning phase right now – many are deciding on how they want to set up their farm for the coming season during the critical autumn period.”

Southwest Victorian farm advisor Paul Groves agreed that Taking stock had greatly reduced farmer stress levels and improved confidence.

“It has been a very efficient use of time for farmers to take a look at their business to identify the financial performance, what they are doing well and areas for improvement,” Mr Groves said.

“They understand where their business is at and have a path forward, so they can see the steps they have to take to get through this year. That may mean they might not make a huge profit this year but they know what they are faced with and what steps they need to take to address it.”

The three consultants have worked with businesses of all sizes and circumstances, who have benefited in some way. They all encourage those farmers who haven’t already - to take advantage of Taking Stock.

“It’s a great service providing farmers with an opportunity,” Mr Harms said. 

The confidential sessions with experienced dairy advisors are still being offered to dairy farmers in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and NSW. It is delivered as part of Dairy Australia’s Tactics for Tight Times campaign and is proudly supported by the Gardiner Foundation, the Australian Government, the South Australian Government, the Tasmanian Government and major dairy processors. 

Dairy Australia Program Manager, Neil Webster, said feedback from farmers who had participated was very positive.

“We’ve had strong feedback with nine out of ten farmers feeling more confident about making farm business decisions and saying that they would recommend Taking Stock to other farmers. That is a great endorsement.” he said.

Taking Stock sessions are aimed at helping farming families work through key management decisions and identify support available to manage their businesses through challenging times. 
 
Advisors work with key members of the farm team over the kitchen table to support financial and physical analysis of their operation and facilitate discussions regarding the current business position, future options and an action plan for the business. 
 
If you are interested in taking up the opportunity to do Taking Stock contact your local Regional Development Program.

Media enquiries:

Felicity Gallagher — Media Manager, Dairy Australia
03 9694 3809 / 0417 540 059 / fgallagher@dairyaustralia.com.au

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