Avoiding decision paralysis

By Rodney Woods

MORE THAN 100 dairy farmers concerned about the 2018 season attended a series of workshops hosted by Murray Dairy in late August.

The Avoiding Decision Paralysis workshops were held at Koondrook, Katunga and Kyabram.

Topics discussed included how to: minimise loss; manage creditors; make informed decisions based on actual market conditions; and the importance of making a decision and moving on.

Stanhope dairy farmer Rob Schloss spoke to the group about his plans for the season ahead.

He is 100 per cent reliant on the temporary water market.

He has carried over 136 Ml into this season and, as a rule, he likes to have some sort of forward allocation secured.

He is into his third and final year of a water lease which will give him access to cheap water this year (for the past two he has paid above market price).

“I used to purchase my water through brokers but last season I started to source it directly from private sellers to help cut out the brokerage fee and I will be doing that again this year — I do pay market price,” Mr Schloss said.

This season he is looking to milk more cows through spring and then he will make a decision about cow numbers after that.

“If we are meant to have a warmer than average spring we should be able to get a good growth response and hold numbers.

“Capitalising on spring and getting as much production out of the cows and as much growth out of my pasture (as possible) is my main priority,” Mr Schloss said.

Last season he fed about 2.2 tonnes of grain per cow, but he is looking at cutting that figure back to 1.8 or a bit less for 2018–19.

He is planning on using less total water but compensating with increased fertiliser use.

“The feed outlook is uncertain when it comes to hay and grain but there will be some opportunities with local farmers and I will be looking toward them to nail some of my fodder requirements.”

Mr Schloss said last season was quite a good one for his business.

He was able to reduce some debt and draw down some of his creditors.

“Normally I would irrigate into May but I stopped in April this year,” he said.

“My gut feeling at the time was I didn’t want to get caught if it came in wet — but it turned out I had to buy in an extra 150–200 tonnes of hay to finish the season — which impacted on the bottom line.”

He is part of a Dairy Business Network group which has become an important way of enabling him to analyse his own farm data, make decisions and improve his management.

He also told the group it was important to live with the decisions you made and accept the consequences.

The workshop also looked at critical decision-making throughout the seasons.

Heading into spring, the group listed watering pasture, conserving as much growth as possible, maximising milk production, pregnancy testing early, calving and joining, considering how to fund a loss and thinking about summer, as some of the issues farmers must consider this season.