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🇦🇺 Tom Bucknell: Getting through tough times with better farm planning





910 mm

Average rainfall
ranchers in pen

Wirribilla Farm

Location Walcha
Operation type Mixed
Average rainfall 910 mm
Area 5,000 Hectares


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How AgriWebb is helping one farm to manage stock and staff, and to cope with the drought.

tom bucknell

From Tracking Stock to Transforming an Operation

When Wirribilla, in the Northern Tablelands of NSW, adopted AgriWebb in 2016, the purpose was straightforward. “It was to fill a gap we had with staff, so everyone knew where all the stock were at any one time,” says manager Michael Campbell.

On a property with 196 paddocks, that hasn’t always been a simple proposition. Now, it’s just a matter of reviewing the AgriWebb mobile app, where stock numbers and locations are shown on the farm mapMob movements can also be recorded on the mobile, as they happen, by dragging the marker that shows a mob’s position to the new paddock.

Overseer Tom Bucknell enjoys the convenience of having the details on a mobile, instead of inside a little green book in his top pocket. “Say we get a new guy come in; it’s easy for him to get up the map and see exactly where each mob is,” he says.

Michael has seen the benefits of using AgriWebb for stock management spilling over to other parts of the operation. “With the time we’re saving, staff can do other jobs we wouldn’t have time to address prior to AgriWebb.”

Now the farm can operate more efficiently than it ever has. This is especially important in current conditions, when drought has seen farm income drop, and forced a reduction in staff numbers.

Getting the Most out of the Team

While it started as a tool to track cattle, AgriWebb has since become a tool for managing staff. “Agriwebb has definitely improved our staff management here at Wirribilla,” Tom says. 

The task management feature has become central to operations, with workers checking in to see jobs daily. In a profession where no two days are the same, getting some structure through the AgriWebb app allows staff to take the initiative and get things done on their own.

Tasks, which are visible on the farm map, can be marked priority and assigned to particular staff. Managers can add detailed instructions, with all the information that’s needed to make sure a job is done properly.

Tom has seen an increase in productivity, thanks to the system. “It comes to the end of the day, and a worker’s not sure what he can do: he goes on AgriWebb and looks up a task and gets it out of the way. It’s good for that,” he says.

“Before that, you’d have to call a manager or an overseer and ask for something to do, and if you can’t get onto them, you’re just hanging around.”

The feature also allows staff to add tasks themselves, marking the location on the farm map for the job that they notice needs completing. “Being able to drop a pin on a task is really handy with jobs like fencing,” Tom says.

Though Michael points out, with a laugh, “From my point of view if they can get the tasks down a bit instead of adding to them, that’s a big benefit.”

Helping with Drought Management

While confronting the challenges of drought, the staff at Wirribilla have found AgriWebb more useful than ever. “We’ve been using it a lot more in the last 12 months, especially with the drought, when we have ongoing tasks, like feeding hay and feeding grain.”

With feed scarce, it’s imperative to accurately track which paddocks are still suited to grazing, and make sure expensive fodder is utilised where it can have as much benefit as possible. 

“Planning is essential anytime in farming,” Michael explains, “but even more so in drought.”

He’s able to use AgriWebb’s Grazing Planner to estimate how long livestock can remain in a paddock before running out of feed, based on that paddock’s most recent feed on offer record, the pasture growth rate, supplemental feeds, and DSE load over time.

The interactive map, which shows open gates, has also proven its worth. “In drought conditions, a lot of paddocks are open to each other,” Tom says. “If you’ve got someone who doesn’t really know what’s going on mustering an area and they come to a gate, and it says it’s open, they know cattle are meant to be in there.”

“With the time we’re saving using AgriWebb, staff can do other jobs we wouldn’t have time to address otherwise. It definitely improved our staff management here at Wirribilla.”

“With the time we’re saving using AgriWebb, staff can do other jobs we wouldn’t have time to address otherwise. It definitely improved our staff management here at Wirribilla.”

Farm Advisors Accessing Better Data

Wirribilla’s yearly budget and three quarterly forecasts have taken on increased significance over the last two years. “The biggest impact from the drought is obviously cash flow –  a lot of cash going out, and not a hell of a lot coming in,” Michael says.

Forsyths, in Armidale, looks after the farm’s accounts. Having access to AgriWebb is giving them greater insight into what’s happening at the property.

“Part of their job is to take an interest in the operational side of Wirribilla, so them having access to our stock numbers makes their job easier and hopefully more accurate,” Michael says. “Being able to talk to them makes a big difference in our cash management.”

Matt Schaefer, a manager at Forsyths, definitely sees a benefit. “Having real-time stock data – it’s a lot better than having the old notebook that can be lost or leave you chasing up stock numbers six months down the track,” he says. “We’ve got that information on AgriWebb, and we can use that if we get audited, rather than going through these guys’ notebooks.”

AgriWebb also gives Matt a broader understanding of the operation than he wouldn’t get from looking at cold hard figures. “We’re not just looking at numbers through a spreadsheet or Xero; we can see the paddocks, we can see the stock movements. Rather than just seeing it as a business and numbers, we get to see it as an enterprise these guys live for.”

To see how AgriWebb can help with livestock management on your property, sign up for your free trial now.

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