WITH the ground wet underfoot and the sun shining above, there was room for at least a little optimism at the most recent Tactics for Tight Times event.
Held at the Nyora dairy farm of Philip Ould and Paul and Louise Sherar, Thursday’s field day was all about making the most of the coming spring to produce home grown feed.
Tactics for Tight Times is funded by Dairy Australia using dairy service levy funds and is being rolled out across the region by GippsDairy.
It is aimed at helping farmers to build skills and resilience during a difficult period.
Farm consultant Matt Harms, who facilitated the discussion at Nyora, said dairy farmers had moved on from the milk price issue and were starting to focus on what can be done to improve a bad situation.
“What we are trying to get across today is to really look at the big picture settings of the season,” he said.
“We are focusing on the things we can control – the late winter and early spring decisions, based around what that looks like in terms of grain input levels, urea rates and pushing to get silage.
“We are not here to dwell on what we can’t control.
“The milk price is the milk price; the season is the season. It’s now working out what we are going to do about it.”
Matt said many farmers in Gippsland are already seeing a surplus of pasture and are wondering when they will be able to start harvesting silage.
He said it was offering some hope that some of the damage caused by the milk price drop could be offset by a strong spring.
“The plans that have been put in place are starting to look like they are lining up. Some people are starting to say that it’s looking OK,” he said.
“The cows are producing on less grain, we’ve got grass and we are looking forward to, while not a great outlook, maybe not the train-wreck that it looked like two months ago.”
One of the messages from the Tactics for Tight Times event was for farmers to stick with what has made them successful in the past – if they can afford it.
“For farmers who are not necessarily having such a tight year, don’t turn your farming system on its head,” Matt said.
“Maybe look at some minor changes or some tweaks.
“This is not the year to be going for ‘best practice’.
“Look at your situation, your inputs, your circumstances because everyone is different – I cannot emphasise that enough.
“It may be that you’re better off taking a cut in production, rather than propping it up while eating into your reserves.
“For others who aren’t in such great shape, maybe they do need to change things significantly with stocking rates or changes to input levels or financial structures.”
The Ould/Sherar farm is a joint venture between Phillip and Louise and Paul.
The Sherars also share-farm on a Loch property owned by Phillip.
Having bought the 120 hectare Nyora farm in March – just weeks before the milk price announcement – it’s been a tough period for the business.
Using full time manager Stephen Spaull to run the farm, it’s been a difficult time, but one which Phillip is hoping will be cushioned by a good spring.
“A good season will help, but while it’s looking good so far, it’s too early to say it will be a good season,” he said.
Phillip believes that events like Tactics for Tight Times can help people reassess how they approach their farm business decisions.
“When the milk price is high there are things you can get away with, but when it’s low you can’t do it the same way,” he said.
“You have to rethink your strategy and stick with the basics.”
GippsDairy regional extension officer Karen Romano said 70 people came to the Nyora event, pushing Tactics for Tight Times numbers above the 900 mark.
“To have that many people coming out during a busy time shows that dairy farmers are looking to access information and resources that can help them through the current tough period,” she said.
“These events are just one part of the Tactics for Tight Times program, which has fact sheets and online resources available to every farmer.”
For more information go to www.tftt.dairyaustralia.com.au or call GippsDairy on 5624 3900.
Tactics to spring into action