Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Integrated farm plan boosts business structure

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023

Integrated Farm Plan (IFP) lead consultant Paul Reese discusses IFP outcomes with Swannanoa farmer Andrew Gilchrist.


Swannanoa farmer Andrew Gilchrist has delved deep into the business and people side of his family-operated farm through completing an Integrated Farm Plan (IFP). Andrew is one of 15 Waimakariri farmers to develop an IFP as part of Next Generation Farming, a two-year innovation project led by Waimakariri Landcare Trust (WLT).

The main aim of the Next Generation Farming project is to help farmers explore and adopt ways of farming that are as profitably as possible within environmental limits. The project is supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL), Environment Canterbury, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, and DairyNZ.

IFP project lead Paul Reese described the plan as the “next step up from a Farm Environment Plan.” It examines five areas of a farm operation including business, people, farm systems, the environment and animals and crops.

“Like an FEP, the IFP looks at the environment, but it takes a much broader view of the entire farm business and delves deeper into a broader range of key topics.

“During our interview with the farmer we go through a set of questions and then identify where the gaps are so we can find the appropriate expert to work with the farmer on these areas.

“In Andrew’s case we identified business and people as focus areas.”

Andrew says while the process was a bit nerve-wracking to begin with, receiving the plan and being able to access expert assistance has helped him and his brother to make progress on the business and people side of their farm operation.

The pair have 430 hectares of family owned and leased land which they use for dairy support, mixed cropping, and lamb finishing. They employ 15 staff and also operate a successful crop spraying business.

“We have grown very quickly over the last seven years from our original crop spraying business to owning and leasing farms, so everything has moved really fast.

“Doing the IFP has cemented our thoughts on governance being a key focus area for us and it has given us the push to get on with it and to establish a clearer structure around roles and responsibilities.

“We were able to look at who is responsible for each area of the farm business and make sure that we are clear on what that looks like.”

Paul says while every farm has different areas to work on after completing the plan, there are several common themes that have emerged.

“We have noticed that there are some gaps in the business and people areas. I think because farmers are practical people and are more focused on working in the business, it can be harder to find the time to work on the business.

“The IFP allows you to take a step back from your daily tasks and take a helicopter view to see if there are any gaps that need to be filled in. You get a clear picture of where the opportunities are to grow your farming operation.”

All the farmers who participated in the project have provided positive feedback on the IFP process and Paul says the IFP template is now being used by a wider group of farmers.

“It’s been really well received, and I think it will continue to be used more widely to provide a deeper overview of how a farm business is operating and then giving farmers the support and help they need to make improvements.”

Andrew recommends that farmers give the IFP a go and says that while there are some searching conversations to be had, the overall outcome is extremely positive.

“Just take the ball and run with it. There will be nothing but good that comes out of it, even if you do have to have a few courageous conversations along the way.”

The IFP process has provided participating farmers like Andrew with the opportunity to improve the profitability, resilience, and sustainability of their operations; better equipping them to meet the challenges of tougher environmental limits.


Maintaining milk production with fewer cows

Monday, May 8th, 2023

Fernside dairy farmer Julie Bradshaw has reduced her herd by 15 cows while maintaining the same level of milk production by using genomic information provided by Livestock Improvement Corporation’s (LIC’s) North Canterbury Agri-Manager Paul Bau.


Fernside dairy farmer Julie Bradshaw has reduced her herd size by 15 cows while maintaining the same milk production levels using genomic information provided by Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) that enables her to make informed decisions about which animals to retain for long term genetic gain.

Julie is participating in Next Generation Farming; a project to help farmers meet tough nitrate caps while maintaining their viability. As part of this project, farmers like Julie are using innovation and demonstrating its productivity and environmental benefits to their neighbours in the region and beyond.

Waimakariri Landcare Trust (WLT) and Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) have partnered with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for the project, with support from MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund along with Environment Canterbury, Ballance, and DairyNZ.

One of Julie’s key goals for the two-year innovation project is using genomic data to refine herd numbers. Her current herd sits at 400 cows after she reduced the herd by 15 cows earlier this year and she is comfortable with losing another 15 cows to further lower the herd size if she can still achieve the same milk production rates.

“Over the years, the quality of the information in our genetic tests has improved so much that we have greater confidence selecting which females have the potential to make the greatest contribution to our herd’s future and we can focus our efforts on those ones. In the current climate we need to ensure that we have the most efficient cows on farm because it is obvious that we will need to reduce our herd numbers further.

“The data we are getting now is amazingly accurate. You can really delve into each cow and calf and evaluate its future value based on science. We also herd test four times per year and the information that we receive is helping us to achieve our goals.”

Making decisions based on science provides benefits for both farm operational efficiency and for the environment, says Julie.

“Using the data helps you make good decisions for your farm in both a business and an environmental sense. We need to show that we are playing our part in terms of reducing our impact on the environment as well as running an efficient business.”

LIC’s North Canterbury Agri Manager Paul Bau says Julie is sitting at the faster end of genetic gain due to her strong focus on genetics, data and accurate record keeping.

“Julie has basically doubled her rate of genetic gain when compared to the national average in the 10-year period. She is part of LIC’s Sire Proving Scheme which includes the genomic evaluation service for each of her animals. All calves that are DNA parent verified also receive an individual genomic evaluation. This provides farmers with reliable data which they can use to create the most efficient herd.”

Julie says local farmers have expressed interest in learning more about genomics and how science can help them to farm more efficiently.

“Everyone is quite onboard with what I am doing, and I have spoken to a few farmers who are keen to DNA test their herd and see where it takes them. That’s where we started off many years ago and while there is a cost involved, the benefits far outweigh the costs because the decisions we make based on data help us to constantly improve and refine our herd.”

While it is hard to know how many cows will be in Julie’s herd in the future, she says that having reliable genetic data helps to provide a sense of certainty about which animals to focus her efforts on and this is something that all farmers can rely on.

“There will always be outside forces that influence the decisions you make on farm, and we really don’t know what sort of reductions we will have to make in the future but having the correct data helps you to make the best decisions for the future of your farm.”