Bouncing back from tough times: recap of recent Sow, Grow, Thrive webinar

// Business Management

Never waste a good crisis. This was one of the messages from the first of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s webinar series ‘Sow, Grow and Thrive; bouncing baa-cck from tough times.’

image of father and daughter picking grass on farm

Facilitated by Becks Smith (The Whole Story), the webinar featured sheep and beef farmers Matt Tayler and Pat Crawshaw who discussed their strategies for navigating what could be a challenging season ahead. These include changing their mindset and taking the opportunity to reassess what drives their business. They will also be looking at ways they can make incremental savings and instill business disciplines that will put them in a good position to recover quickly.

Matt and his wife Shona farm Lorne Peak, a 6,000ha sheep and beef operation near Garston in Southland.

He described adversity as being a great learning experience and it has been through periods of adversity that they have changed their farming system for the better.

While they are carrying a lot of debt on the back of a recent growth and development phase, Matt says he is feeling energised about the opportunity to reset their business, although it has taken him a few months to adopt that mindset.

Over the five years Pat Crawshaw and his wife Isabelle have been farming at Patoka in the Hawkes Bay, they have faced drought, a TB outbreak, Covid, a slew of government regulations and cyclones; the latter being by far the most destructive and disruptive.

They were also B+LNZ Monitor Farms and the support networks they put into their business over that time are now standing them in good stead.

On top of having to rebuild their farm system after the devastation wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle, interest rates on their considerable debt have over doubled.

Pat describes interest rates (as a percentage of their Gross Farm Income), is their biggest challenge and this puts a huge amount of pressure on them. It is also a factor they cannot control.

He says they are very frank with their bank manager about what that looks like for them, but their focus is on the factors they can control.

Fertiliser and freight are next big-ticket items (as a percentage of Gross Farm Income) and Pat and Isabelle are looking at ways they can make incremental 1–2% savings on all their farm input costs.

He stresses the importance of having good long-term relationships with the many people in the farm team (accountants, bank managers, processor, fertiliser reps, agronomists etc) who can offer support, advice and reward loyalty.

Both Matt and Pat talked about having trigger points in their businesses (Matt’s are climate related) and having plans B, C and D ready to implement.

Pat uses Farmax modelling, which includes soil moisture and temperature data, as a decision-making tool and every month he reviews how they are tracking financially. A more in-depth budget review is carried out every two to three months.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s ‘Sow, Grow and Thrive; empowering farmers to financial success is a series of six webinars running every Monday night from 7.30–8.30 pm until 16 October.

Listen to the first of the series ‘Bouncing baa-cck from tough times’ at: B+LNZ's ‘Sow, Grow, Thrive’ Webinar One: Paddock stories – bouncing back from tough times