“We feel we understand a lot more about pasture management and quality vs quantity and how we can improve that side of things,” he says.
The RMPP Action Network model supports small groups of seven to nine farm businesses to work together to explore ideas and share expert resources to help them to make positive changes on-farm. Kick-start funding of $4,000 per farm business is pooled to fund facilitation and expertise.
Brendon, who supplies Alliance Group, farms 360 effective hectares at Mandeville near Gore, with 4,300 stock units – 70 per cent sheep and 30 per cent beef.
The Gore-based Action Group is made up of nine farm businesses and is facilitated by Donna Hamilton of VetSouth.
“All of us were already part of VetSouth’s OviMax trace element monitoring programme and we were approached to see if we would be interested in putting together an RMPP Action Group,” says Brendon.
“Our objective is to target lamb growth and to minimise lamb waste. The funding has been really valuable. It enables us to have Donna as a very good facilitator, and access to experts.”
Expert speakers have included agronomist Tom Fraser, rural accountants to help the group set their KPIs, Southland farm consultant Deane Carson and Dunedin-based farm consultant Simon Glennie. At their next meeting, the group is planning to do RMPP’s Taking Ownership of Your Financials workshop – designed to build confidence in understanding the financial performance of a farm business.
“We’ve had expert input in areas like pasture quality and pasture measuring,” says Brendon. “Deane Carson also had each of us provide our processing data to him and then provided us with a full analysis of each farm, with average lamb growth for the year and also highlighted areas where there was room for improvement.”
The group aims to meet seven or eight times a year, either at the VetSouth clinic or at members’ farms. The aim is to have held a meeting at all members’ farms by the end of year two.
Brendon says the benefits of being part of the Action Group extend beyond the meetings and the expert help.
“There’s a real variety in the group,” he says. “Some farmers are pretty early on in their careers and some have a lot of experience. We’ve got knowledge in different areas and we are keen to help one another. If I have a question about something, I wouldn’t hesitate to drop one of the other members a text for their opinion.”
Alliance Group Technical Officer Shona Frengley has been working with Alliance farmers to support the set-up and ongoing activity of Action Groups.
“We are hearing from a number of farmers like Brendon that are benefiting from the expert support and the opportunity to meet with other like-minded farmers to share ideas.
“Early on in the programme, it was identified that farmers learn from farmers, but this is further strengthened by working in small groups with top industry experts. Bringing farming businesses together with relevant extension activities, quality information and resources and adoption support is a powerful way of building farmer confidence to make effective on-farm change.”
Brendon Hargest says he believes the group will continue long-term.
“I’d like to think it will go on for a long time – I think everyone wants it to continue. We have been working on a lot of things and it will take more than three years to start seeing things really happen as a result of that.”
RMPP is a seven-year Primary Growth Partnership programme that is working to help the red meat sector increase productivity and profitability.
The programme is funded by ten partners – government and private sector (Ministry for Primary Industries, ANZ, Alliance, ANZCO, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Blue Sky Meats, Greenlea Premier Meats, Progressive Meats, Rabobank and Silver Fern Farms).
RMPP works alongside farmers and sector businesses to help them tackle the opportunities and challenges they are facing. RMPP Action Groups are made up of 7-9 farm businesses focused on farmer-driven learning to improve performance.