On-farm tactics to outwit global uncertainties | Beef + Lamb New Zealand

On-farm tactics to outwit global uncertainties

While we can’t control global factors, we can control a lot within the farm gate, says B+LNZ Director Kirsten Bryant.
Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Over the next 12 weeks, we have thousands of lambs to dock and wean and sheep to shear, as well as hundreds of cows to calve. The downside of a later lambing and calving is that everything concertinas into a condensed period. It’s a physically and mentally demanding time of the year. 

Throw in weather vagaries and my heart starts racing a little.

Global factors conspiring

Meanwhile, factors entirely out of our control percolate around the globe: economic and financial volatility, Brexit, US elections, supply and demand, exchange rates and a touch of social unrest. These influences – and many others – conspire to make price signals to farmers a real challenge for our exporters. 

Unlike the dairy industry, where farm gate pricing is signalled regularly, the red meat sector encounters perennial uncertainties around what our natural, free-range and grass-fed product may return. It’s an uncomfortable place to be.

What do the most profitable farmers focus on?

Tim Hembrow, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Economic Service manager for our region, recently reminded me of what the most profitable sheep and beef farmers focus on – despite facing the same challenges as the rest of us. 

What are those focus areas? Better genetics – it’s a cheap win. Improving survival, especially pre-weaning. Hogget mating, where practical. Autumn and spring nitrogen – N grows grass. A committed pasture replacement policy. Crop options that fill feed voids and improve growth rates. Being aggressive on costs. (The B+LNZ Western North Island survey revealed the differences in shearing and scanning costs, for example, are significant.) Diversification of income mix. And finally a focus on measurable yield improvement.

So, while there is no instant solution – nor will all of these options suit every system – there are things that we can consider and action over the next 12 weeks – and beyond.