Managing a farm business means learning to deal with uncertainty. The most successful farmers know how to mitigate risks and seize opportunities, whether that means destocking ahead of drought, or improving herd genetics for improved meat production.
The Australian Farm Institute highlighted the pressures farmers face with their recent report, Australian agriculture: an increasingly risky business. They noted that: “The threat of new and emerging institutional risk factors is quickly becoming a major concern for the industry.”
These institutional risks are associated with factors such as government policy changes or trade and are traditionally considered beyond farmers’ control. But John Fargher sees how farmers can use data to bolster their case, in regards to contentious issues such as animal welfare or food safety.
“If farmers are able to demonstrate their dedication to safe and conscious food production to key decision-makers, then that is a great tool to have,” he says, “By recording everything they do on an independent platform and being able to use this for all sorts of reporting, farmers can bring science and facts back into these discussions.”
Farm data, recorded properly, also gives farmers powerful insights into their operations. They can dig into hard numbers to solve management decisions, rather than go with their gut and hope for the best.
If farmers are able to demonstrate to key decision-makers their dedication to safe and conscious food production, then that is a great tool to have. By recording everything they do on an independent platform and being able to use this for all sorts of reporting, farmers can bring science and facts back into these discussions.
Five areas of farm risk where you need solid data
Environmental risk doesn’t just mean newsmaking disasters. It also relates to issues like underperforming paddocks that have a high weed burden or are at risk of soil erosion thanks to overgrazing, or the misuse of farm chemicals.
Monitoring livestock weight gains, along with mob movements and pasture conditions, gives you valuable data for powerful insights into paddock performance. It means you can identify environmental risks and deal with them before they become major production problems.
By accruing data over five-to-ten years, you’ll have a greater understanding of the risks brought by extreme weather events and specifically how they affect your operation. This insight means you can factor the economic consequences into budgets and forecasts.
Profit and loss statements are a blunt instrument when it comes to assessing the viability of your farm enterprise and seeing where you can reduce exposure or increase profits.
With the data you record through the year, it’s possible to develop comprehensive reports that show the real cost of production on your property. It can help you redirect your resources where they will see the best return on investment.
Using your real-time data when assessing your inventory levels, tracking available feed, chemicals and livestock medicine, also reduces wastage and increases efficiency.
Biosecurity practices protect your livestock from infectious diseases and your property from pests and weeds. They also protect the agricultural industry as a whole, by ensuring the health and welfare of animals and helping to maintain public trust in Australian farm products.
Recording mob movements on the property, along with inputs and treatments, makes complying with biosecurity regulations straightforward. It also provides data that is priceless in the unlikely event that authorities need to track down and isolate any biosecurity hazard.
How stable are the markets you’re selling into, and are the prices you receive for your product as high as you can get? In recent months it’s become evident that no market is guaranteed. Still, the right accreditations can help you endure turbulent times.
Data that backs up your production claims, whether they’re about animal welfare, environmental practices or biodynamic farming, is vital for gaining desirable accreditations for new or premium markets.
Human resources management risks
Encouraging good record keeping, where workers can input data related to jobs they have completed, ensures staff and management are on the same page. It also promotes accountability and makes for better staffing arrangements, reducing the challenge of retaining staff.
On a family enterprise, farm data accrued over the years is an essential resource for overcoming unforeseen personal hardships, such a divorce, death, or disability, and maintaining continuity of farm management.
How to start leveraging your data
“Farming is all about managing risk, and data is a risk management tool that will only become more important in the future,” Fargher says. “The sooner growers and their advisors start to leverage this, the more powerful it becomes.”
To realise the value of your farm data, it can’t be left in farm notebooks or in outdated computer spreadsheets. It should be recorded in the field with dedicated farm management software such as AgriWebb. It ensures your records are accurate and that the data can be used to build insightful reports.
To find out how AgriWebb can help you with farm risk management, sign up for a free trial now.