Nearly half of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farmers are strong planners, change-focused and open to advice and outside support to help boost productivity, new Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) research has found.
However, many remain cautious about change, believe profits are largely determined by off-farm forces and have not used digital farm management tools.
Over one thousand farmers took part in the study, commissioned by RMPP, a Primary Growth Partnership programme working to help the red meat sector increase productivity and profitability.
RMPP is funded by ten partners, including the Ministry for Primary Industries and private sector companies. It works with farmers and sector businesses to develop, test and introduce new ideas, new technology solutions and new ways of working.
Michael Smith, RMPP’s general manager, said: “This research provided vital insights which will help us understand how best to work with farmers to encourage them to enhance their on-farm practices to increase profits.
“Our job is not about telling farmers what to do. It’s about creating opportunities where farmers can learn from each other, share what works, embrace change and make more informed business decisions for the future of their businesses, their families and New Zealand.
“Knowing more about what makes high performance farmers tick is helping us plan approaches that will improve performance across the board.
“We appreciate the willingness of farmers to take part in this research as they are helping their industry learn and develop.”
The study showed low uptake of digital farm management tools, with only 18 percent of the farmers having used a farm decision support tool.
However, 62 percent had used a financial management tool, 51 percent benchmarking tools and 45 percent a computer planning tool like a spreadsheet. Farmers under 40 and those with bigger farms were most likely to use digital and benchmarking tools.
Overall, more than half the farmers (52 percent) were prepared to make adjustments to farming practices, but wanted to see evidence of these practices working first. Twenty three percent were willing to try change despite there being a chance it wouldn’t work and 17 percent didn’t feel they needed to make any adjustment.
Most agreed there were not enough young people entering the industry and only 38 percent had succession plans in place.
The major solutions farmers considered most likely to increase profits were pasture management, animal health, fertiliser management, re-grassing, animal breeding and genetics.
RMPP has used the research findings to refine its approach in many areas.
For example, the research showed that 42 percent of farmers were interested in learning basic computer skills so a computing course called “Getting started” has been developed and is in pilot. RMPP is also offering support to farmers in using digital farm management tools, starting with how to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. It is providing succession planning workshops and using the research findings to guide plans for other learning opportunities.
Findings around how high performance farmers use a network of trusted sources of expertise have prompted a greater focus on helping other farmers build their own networks.
In addition, insights on how farmers use technology are being taken into account in planning how to make it easier for farmers to collect, understand and analyse data to get a more complete picture of their farm business and where they might make adjustments.
A slide summary of the findings is available from the RMPP website: www.rmpp.co.nz