Welcome back Angus Whyte from Pooncarie in Western NSW for another great insight.
As I have said previously we were running a merino sheep business conservatively set stocked on the pastoral property “Wyndham” which is a 12,500ha property on the Anabranch River in South West NSW, oh did I mention that we only had 30% equity in the property! We had reached the conclusion that had to do something different as we were working at least 6 ½ days/week with no holidays, continuing to go backwards and not only that our landscape seemed really unhealthy and with my background in catchment management that was making me sad as well. One of the many things that I’m not good at is giving up, so armed with a decent lot of perseverance and no money we set about trying to find a way forward.
Together with a small group of people involved with a local Rangeland Management Group (RMAP Inc.) we put up a “holistic Management Plan” to be funded through Landcare, this was in the year 2000 and early in 2001 we were funded. We employed Principle Focus (Then RCS south) to provide the education and also 1 years support to help us make some changes.
The knowledge of the changes required is one thing, having the support systems around you to achieve the change is very important as I said last post. One of the main lessons that we learnt through that experience was; that we are responsible for everything that happens on our farm and it is within our power to change everything. This was very empowering, it also meant no “get out” we had responsibility for good and bad issues and if we wanted a different outcome, we had to change.
We identified that if we were able to rotate the stock around our paddocks this could potentially decrease our workload and over time increase our carrying capacity and our returns.
We painted a picture of what we thought our business would look like and set goals of trebling our carrying capacity in 30 years, annual holidays, working only 5 days and a profit so we had choices. We also signed on for another 3 years of business support through Principle Focus to keep our business energized and moving ahead, this also helped with business plans for our banks to finance some infrastructure and times when it was so dry we had to de-stock.
I still do some work with Principle Focus as a way of paying back their support they gave us, not just our business, us mentally through some very tough dry times. We used a lot of patience and perseverance and there were lots of times when we could have just gone back to the way we originally ran, it was just through support of our good friends and some small changes that kept us going.
So now we have bigger mobs of stock, currently 320 cows and 3600 sheep rotating around 23 paddocks, we make sure that we have an annual holiday and at least 1 and ½ days off per week. Our carrying capacity has doubled in 10 years and will need to re-adjust our long-term goal up, this has mean effectively we have “bought” another 4,000 dse’s for our property, without having to pay $400 each!
I reckon the main reason that we have been able to achieve this (which for us is a good result) is that we now have a much better relationship with all the components of our business. The basis of any good relationship is communication and this is how our relationships have improved, also our attitude is that there should be as few compromises as possible.
So this is a way of explaining our business through relationships:
• People- We discuss business issues in a formal meeting regularly (1/4ly) and share more family time together as well as sharing on farm roles.
• Land- We have a “grazing chart” which takes our rain and stock records and puts them together to measure water use efficiency, we also have monitoring sites that measure groundcover, pasture bulk and diversity.
• Livestock- We spend more time with our stock now and through the assistance of Grahame and his Low Stress Stockhandling, we can now “communicate” with our stock and address issues, reducing stress.
• Economics- We have budgets (same as everyone), we also have a clear business plan that shows our direction, this has allowed us to maintain a good relationship with our lenders through some very tough periods.
As I said at the start I don’t consider that we have changed too much, however we are aware that we now talk a different “language” to our peers and we have to be careful as this can cause some anxiety so it is much easier to not speak about how we manage our place, so please don’t tell anyone.
There are many details that we have left out as this wasn’t an easy road, the exciting thing is that we don’t know how good this property/business can be and so we just keep going ahead. I reckon in 10 years time we may very well be considered an “overnight success”
~ Gus Whyte ~