Sheep and beef farmer confidence – a tale of two species

Sam McIvor
Sam McIvor.

While overall sheep and beef farmer confidence in their industry has taken a dip in the last four months, there is a solid core that remains upbeat about the future.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ Ltd) commissions UMR Research to gather a range of confidence and performance indicators to understand three main topics. These are the mood of the industry, to assess the key areas farmers’ want their organisation to deliver on for them and to assess B+LNZ’s performance.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the latest 2016 quarterly report shows that farmers with high beef numbers are more confident than the sheep dominant enterprises.

“Unsurprisingly, the strongest level of confidence was recorded in the far North of the North Island, a strong beef area and the lowest confidence was recorded in the Southern South Island, a strong sheep area.

“Uncertainty over sheepmeat markets, on the back of Brexit and declining wool prices had an effect on confidence.  Throw in a difficult late spring across the country where young stock haven’t been ‘doing’ and drought a not too distant memory, and it’s understandable that farmers are feeling uneasy right now,” McIvor says.

“In several regions farmers are facing uncertainty around where environmental regulations are going. The 1,000 farmers we’ve had at our environmental workshops in Waikato and Southland over the last month are testament to that.”

McIvor says, however, there is confidence in the long-term fundamentals of the sheep and beef industry.

“New Zealand sheep and beef farmers are producing a high quality, safe product for an ever-increasing and discerning global customer and B+LNZ is focused on helping farmers improve the bottom line today, but also advocating for the future too.”

UMR research director Marc Elliott, whose organisation tracks’ farmers’ satisfaction with the performance of B+LNZ says this quarter 53 percent (up seven percent said they were satisfied with the job the organisation was doing on its behalf.

“We’ve also seen increases in farmers’ awareness of B+LNZ, attendance at events and use of their digital services like the website.”

McIvor says one area where farmers want the organisation to step up is in promoting beef and lamb products in international markets, with 79 percent rating this as very important and only 37 percent of farmers thinking the organisation’s doing a good job.

“Obviously there’s room for improvement. Following farmer and industry consultation we’ve just started a new market development plan and we’ll be targeting market segments known to have good growth potential.

“The first part of that work is developing our unique red meat story that explores New Zealand sheep and beef farmer values and the ethical drivers for producing the best beef and lamb.

“We’ve just completed 45 in-depth interviews with farmers nationwide who collectively farm around 120,000 hectares. We’ve heard their stories – and I can say it’s absolute gold.

“I’m really confident that we’re going to be able to build a story that trumps others around the world and will be equally effective in getting our local population on board. Our farmers will be at the centre of it.”

The UMR research highlights are:-

  • Farmer confidence in the sheep and beef industry 32% – down 11%
  • Farmers with 5,000 or more stock units were more confident in the future of the sheep industry
  • Farmer satisfaction with B+LNZ 53% – up 7%
  • Awareness of B+LNZ 78% – up 5%
  • 32% of farmers have attended as B+LNZ event in the past three months (28% said they had in August)
  • 42% of farmers have accessed information from the B+LNZ website in the last three months (32% said they had in August)

From a prompted list of issues, the ones farmers agreed that they’d like B+LNZ to focus on are:

  1. Telling consumers the unique New Zealand red meat story (78% agreed)
  2. New ways to introduce farm practices to farmers (66% agreed)
  3. Better online resources for helping improve farm practices (62% agreed)
  4. Develop new pasture species for hill country (59% agreed).

*Results of the report are based on a representative sample of n=770 sheep and beef farmers. At the 95 percent confidence level the margin of error is + or – 3.5 percent.

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