Dining on data is good for the bottom (line)

Farm planning meeting

Farm management meeting

Depending on how you look at it, dairy farmers are very trusting, natural exhibitionists or visionaries. I say this because I have always been amazed by how readily we share the most confidential of our information with our counterparts – right down to the profitability of our farms per litre, hectare and even per cow.

I have just joined the ranks of these exhibitionists by submitting our farm’s data to Frank Tyndall, who oversees a project called Tracker that benchmarks dairy farms across all sorts of productivity measures.

The results offer an incredible amount of information that require some very thoughtful interpretation. Great fodder for discussion with our farm consultant, Matt Harms.

Unsurprisingly, we have achieved a lowly rank. Our dryland (or “rain-fed” if you’re feeling optimistic) farm is being compared to those in the Macallister Irrigation District (MID), where water when you need it is pretty much assured. We have just come out of an impossibly wet year that has depressed production in the growing season and, now, the dry has set in.

We may end up winning the wooden spoon but I’m not concerned. The race here is to a greater discipline when it comes to farm management, which should reap efficiency dividends and make our farm more resilient.

8 thoughts on “Dining on data is good for the bottom (line)

  1. Hi Marion,
    Benchmarking across enterprises if often problematic because very few farm systems are the same, so it’s difficult to compare like with like. As you say, discipline with your own farm management is the key. If your figures have improved since last year then give yourself a big pat on the back!


    • Yes, I think you’re right, Julie and I also think we can do better by putting ourselves under greater scrutiny. I’m not seeing it as a competition with anyone else but myself, which is especially easy given that the other farmers are more than an hours’ drive away.


  2. Hi Marian
    I must admit I find farm vs farm benchmarking in the dairy world totally unrewarding. Firstly Australian farming systems are so diverse its almost impossible to make “real” comparisons. The anal focus on ROC ROA and ROI is bizarre. If people want to make buckets of money they dont farm. At Clover Hill Dairies we now benchmark against ourselves – to us its geting the right balance between the milk production system, the landscape and the farm team ie our people and our cows
    As far as I am concerned you are a winner, top of the tree, you are setting the benchmark for changing the way we talk and think about farming and that makes you a complete stand out I hope the rest of the dairy world is in a race to catch up quick


    • Thanks for such a nice comment, Lynne, about being top of the tree!

      I can honestly say, however, that my focus on profitability is not associated with greed nor does it mean I place a lower priority on everything that makes farming a joy.

      I farm because I love it but if I don’t do what I can to be profitable, I won’t be farming for long.


  3. Quote from my blog. — “It started when I joined a Milk Marketing Board scheme called ‘Low Cost Production’. November 1962. Much to my disgust I seemed to always be in the lower quarter of the chart / league table”.
    In reality it was Low cost Low production.
    I still have all the costing sheets nearly fifty years on and some I have scanned onto this blog. http://www.fwi.co.uk/community/blogs/fretaw/archive/2011/01/04/low-cost-production-milk-marketing-board-1962.aspx
    Hope you can get the link.


  4. One of the factors measured in the current project, Fred, is cow condition, so hopefully, this has been addressed.

    Looking at the results, it seems that the greater the quantity of grass a farmer can grow, the better the profitability – though this is a very simplistic statement. There are many, many more factors involved as Julie and Lynne point out.


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