Fourth-generation Stanhope dairy farmer Craig Emmett knows a lot about farming but a study tour to New Zealand proved there’s still more to learn.
Craig returned from the Gardiner Foundation sponsored tour in 2018 with a better appreciation of the importance of business acumen when running a farm.
“It was good to get a different perspective of how a different part of the world goes about their farming,” he said. “I was impressed with how well New Zealand farmers know their businesses. They’re probably more business focused in the management of costs than we are.”
While Craig didn’t make wholesale changes to his farming practices, the study tour inspired him to get a better grasp on the business side of the operation and now he’s encouraging other farmers to take the tour.
Applications for the 2020 Gardiner Dairy Foundation UDV New Zealand Study Tour next February are now open and close at 9am on October 14.
Craig’s family has been farming at Stanhope for just over 100 years. After studying a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne, Craig worked for two years as an agronomist before returning to the family farm, which has recently converted to organic.
“We’ve been semi-organic for a while so we were confident that we wouldn’t have any problem growing grass,” Craig said. “We were a bit worried about animal health but we were encouraged by our milk company and so far, we’re pretty happy with how it’s gone,” he said. “The animal health hasn’t been as hard as we feared and it’s been a boost for the farm.”
The New Zealand tour showed farms sticking to a proven pasture-based formula with once-a-year calving, run-off blocks and different crops over winter.
One constant was the focus on costs and margins. “Everywhere we went they were able to tell us off the top of their heads their cost of production and their margin,” Craig said.
“When you’re turning over big numbers on dairy farms, you should have a better grasp of where you’re at.”
Craig, 33, previously left the figures to his parents Gordon and Lyn but since the tour has taken closer interest in the farm’s financial progress and margins.
He’s also been inspired to join a dairy business network group, his local UDV branch and a Murray Dairy regional network group.
“The study tour encouraged me to put my hand up and do a few things I hadn’t thought about previously. It highlighted that we need people to contribute and not just complain about things.”
Craig will need all his skills this summer if the dry conditions continue.
“Today the farm looks fantastic,” he said. “We’ve been able to irrigate it once and can probably irrigate a second time but that will use up our water allocation. We’ll be cruising for the next month with a lot of feed, but come November if we haven’t had any rain and the water price hasn’t come back, we’ll have to buy in fodder and it’s going to be a long summer.”
Craig recommends other farmers step out their comfort zones and learn about the broader industry.
“It’s a valuable experience to get more exposure to the industry, especially in another area.”
The study tour is organised by UDV and funded by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation. To access the application form please CLICK HERE.
To be eligible to apply you must be aged between 18 – 35 years; hold a current Australian passport; be available for travel in February 2020; actively participate in the dairy industry – either on or off-farm; agree to have an ongoing relationship with the UDV and Gardiner Dairy Foundation; and utilise leadership skills upon their return.
To apply, please visit www.vff.org.au/UDVTour.