The successful GippsDairy Yanakie Focus Farm officially wrapped up in December after running for two years. The project stretched over two farms managed by the Moon family, who worked towards achieving the goals set at the start of the process.
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SUCCESSION PLANNING: The Moon family Melissa, Jared, Tricia and Alex were able to refine their business goals as a result of being a Focus Farm.

They received assistance from the support group, a farmer-based group of people who attended the farms on a monthly basis with a good understanding of the farm business physically and financially.

The Moon family trade as a four-way partnership, Alex and Tricia, Jared and Melissa. The family farm is located at Foley Rd, Yanakie, Vic, and the farm that is leased with the option to purchase is on the Meeniyan-Promontory Rd, Yanakie. This leased farm (Brickles) had the potential to be purchased at the end of the 2019 financial year or at the end of the 2021 financial year.

The goals of the farm included:

1. Use the farm cash flow and previous savings to provide a deposit to buy Brickles (202 hectares) before July 1, 2019, or July 1, 2021.

The Moons chose not to purchase the leased farm at the end of the 2019 financial year, rather their choice was to wait to make a decision on the potential purchase. During the 2021 financial year the Moons made the decision that the purchase of the farm was not their preferred option.

Alex and Tricia decided that they would scale back their physical involvement in the farm business and move towards volunteer roles, to do the work that they wanted to do.

Jared and Melissa will operate the Foley Rd farm after the second farm’s lease has concluded at the end of the 2021 financial year.

This has resulted in the Moons not taking the option to purchase the leased farm.

2. Managing the development of people in the business.

The employment of effective labour is a skill that often needs to be developed by dairy farmers that have normally done most of the work on farm with their own labour. The Moons have become more skilled in this area over the Focus Farm period.

“We learned a lot about being good employers from our staff, both success and failure can teach you valuable lessons,” Alex said.

The Moons followed this process step-by-step:

A. Set up workplace employment agreements, using a human resources consultant.

B. Skill assess their employees and train where required, but really assign duties and responsibilities that were suitable for staff in terms of their most preferred work areas.

C. Having a roster that is planned, agreed to and communicated to the team.

D. Having employees that are self directed based on roles, duties and job lists.

E. Having policies and procedures for the workplace.

F. Conducting an audit for farm occupational health and safety, especially infrastructure that could contribute to injury or bodies wearing out prematurely.

3. Work-life balance

This goal was about all of the Moons having a sustainable balance of work and rest to allow the best farm performance and to have business operators and employees that are happy to be at work as a result of their work-life balance.

This was an area of challenge for the owners of the business throughout the Focus Farm. The first year of the Focus Farm was more successful in terms of planned breaks and days off.

In the second year of the Focus Farm, the building of a new dairy at the home farm (Foley Rd) took a lot of time, attention and effort which resulted in less planned time off for the Moons.

All employees had rostered days off and holidays as planned.

Support group focus

The group identified that winter pasture volumes, spring pasture quality, silage quality and diet balance would make a considerable impact on the farms’ profitable milk production. During the period of the Focus Farm significant gains were made in these areas.

The Moons responded to advice from the support group in a very positive way and took on the challenge to make improvements to the farm management to improve profitability.

Areas that were fine-tuned and impacted the most on the business:

1. Fertiliser timing and volumes.

2. Setting faster grazing rotation lengths to lower pasture fibre levels and creating appropriate grazing residuals using young stock to increase grazing pressure and topping to improve pasture quality once young stock could not keep up.

3. Cutting high quality pasture silage had a big impact on early lactation milk production as cows calve in March and often have very limited pasture available for grazing until May.

4. Feeding cows well enough for the most profitable production (balanced cost with volume and quality):

Matching concentrate type and volume with other available feed/pasture.
Any additive to have a clear purpose at an acceptable cost.
Ensure fodder supplies are available and of appropriate quality.

5. Sell some stock with inappropriate type for milk production and improve calving date to suit the system. This impacted by having a tightened calving pattern, improved herd fertility and increased milk production.

6. Young stock rearing process for replacements was a focus to improve their reproductive performance and heifer suitability.

Farm physical review and forecast

Tables 1-3 review and forecast for the farm business from the 2017 financial year

Tables 1-3 are a review and forecast for the farm business from the 2017 financial year. Table 1 shows the physical performance and Table 2 and Table 3 show the financial performance of the farm business over both farms and compares the 2020 financial year physical and financial performance against the Gippsland Dairy Farm Monitor Project farm averages.

GippsDairy Focus Farm applications are now open again and close in July. Go to website https://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/gippsdairy for more information.

Article courtesy of How Now Gippy Cow

Dairy products and, in particular, grass-fed products are performing strongly post-covid in overseas markets.

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