South Canterbury deer farmer takes home Trans-Tasman award

Josh Brook, Rabobank Farm Managers Programme 2018
Josh Brook.

An increased focus on production analysis is paying off for South Canterbury farmer Joshua Brook, seeing him take home the prestigious Trans-Tasman Rabobank Farm Management Project award for 2018.

Brook, the partner and manager of Rupert Red Deer, is a graduate of the 2017 Rabobank Farm Managers Program (FMP), which caters for progressive young farmers from a range of agricultural sectors from across Australia and New Zealand, providing the opportunity to develop and enhance their business management skills.

Brook was shortlisted to present his project at this year’s programme, highlighting the changes he had made to his business as a result of attending the programme. He received the award and the $2,000 management prize at a dinner in Adelaide in late June in front of the current crop of graduates, industry leaders and senior Rabobank staff.

Rabobank chief executive Todd Charteris said Brook had applied the lessons from the programme into his business and was seeing tangible results.

“Through the process of completing the project, Josh really put himself and his business under the microscope which has given him a clear plan of how he can improve efficiency and further grow the business,” says Charteris.

“The programme develops the operational and strategic business skills of young farmers through a mixture of real-life case studies and management theories. The Management Project is undertaken in the 12 months following the programme and gives graduates the perfect opportunity to immediately put the lessons from the course into action in their own business.”

Brook and his wife Kiri are responsible for Rupert Red Deer, a 324-hectare stud stock and velvet operation located on two properties in Peel Forest, South Canterbury.

Brook says his attendance at the FMP in mid-2017 had “lit a fire under him” and, following his return from the course, he and Kiri decided to develop a business plan across a range of focus areas which included both short and long-term goals.

“One of the outcomes of developing the business plan was to start our own Stud brand – Rupert Red Deer – selling our top genetics as sire animals and selling our surplus young stock,” he says.

“Having our first sale did two things – it increased our profit on selling our surplus stock and opened our eyes to what our stock were potentially worth.”

Brook says this first sale, along with a presentation at the FMP from Paul Bennett, the director of Tasmania-based Ashgrove Cheese, were the catalyst for a thorough look at the farm’s existing production.

“I really enjoyed Paul’s presentation at the course on the expansion of Ashgrove Cheese and one of the key points he made was that it was essential to understand the numbers within your business. I came away from his presentation thinking we needed to place a much greater emphasis on this within our own business,” he said.

“Through the use of computer-based technology we were able to strip out the data in our business and analyse our production dollar-by-dollar, cent-by-cent and kilo-by-kilo.”

Brook says the process gave him the information he needed to dissect the major profit drivers for the business and uncover new growth opportunities.

“One thing we discovered by doing this analysis was the land we were using for our first fawning hinds was holding us back in producing our best genetics due to the fact hinds tend to get too fat on the highly-productive paddocks we were using,” he said.

“Looking around and talking to other deer farmers we found other farmers were getting better results when hinds were on lesser country and we came to the realisation that we needed different land to improve results.

“We’ve recently taken our numbers and financial budgets to the bank and have successfully obtained the money we need to purchase a property with the right land class and contour.”

Brook says while a significant component of his management project was focused on increasing farm profit, the business plan he and his wife developed also covered off on-farm health and safety, environmental sustainability and personal health with objectives and targets set for each of these areas.

“The programme included several speakers that really drilled into us the importance of having a plan which incorporates not only your business goals, but your broader personal goals as well,” he said.

“We’ve now made good progress on many of the short-term goals we initially set ourselves and are now putting together new goals for the next 12 months.”

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