Friday, August 18, 2017
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A significant birthday leads to rethink

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There’s a lot of talk in farming circles about succession planning, and a lot of farmers who are still shying away from thinking about it – despite the number of birthdays they’ve had.

But when Tararua sheep and beef farmer David Poole had a significant birthday a few years ago, he realised his current farming methods weren’t giving him the spare cash he needed. Nor would he have options about what his future would be, whether farming or something else.

So, when his accountant, MCI & Associates in Dannevirke, invited him and Debbie to attend a seminar about the GrowFARM system they went, listened hard, and next day told Brendon Walsh they’d like to become GrowFARM clients.

That was in August 2015, and since then progress has been all upward. The first example of this progress is in quite a challenging season that scanning and lambing both went up by 19 per cent.


Kara and Brendon Walsh of GrowFarm with Tararua sheep and beef farmers David and Debbie Pool at the Central Districts Field Days in Feilding.


Friesian bulls

On a rolling to hilly 502 hectares – with 410ha effective – farm, run singlehanded, where only one-third can be navigated on wheels, David is running 1800 ewes, 550 hoggets, 40 rams and 60 breeding cows. A significant change has been that instead of also wintering about 130 two-year Friesian bulls, they are now bought in early-spring, grown fast and sold before summer at a real profit. Previously, they competed for feed with the ewes and resulted with both classes of stock being underfed.

The big advantage of this change is it also allows the ewes to lamb on good covers. It will depend on how the summer pasture grows and goes as to whether David does the same thing next autumn.

David and Debbie had earlier recognised their business lacked direction, but were unsure how to change things. Two of their older children have left home; Sam is a registered surveyor; Hannah is about to enter her fourth year of a pharmacy degree at Auckland University; and the youngest daughter Kate is going into Year 13 as a weekly boarder at Iona College where she’s head of boarding. Debbie has a full-time job, one that’s given her substantial business management skills, which she also brings to running the farm these days.

Season planner

The systems involved in using GrowFARM include computer inputting of stock numbers, live weight gains and values which the programme then calculates the true profit for each class of stock at any time of year. The programme automatically allocates the appropriate costs involved to achieve the change in value of the stock.

Plus the all-important GrowFARM Season Planner which they create to guide future decisions. David now measures his pasture cover monthly to make sure they are on target to fully feed stock at the crucial profit periods such as lambing. After realising his stock perform so much better when fully fed at critical times, he’s also now using the Falkirk selection systems on his sheep, running A and B flocks with the B ewes going to a terminal sire.

For the Pooles there have been three points that have significantly improved how they feel about running their farm. The first is putting focus on what you can control, rather than blaming the season or overseas markets for shortcomings. The second is the GrowFARMSeason Planner. The third is that the GrowFARM system works at an individual farm level, rather than what is expected at a district level.

They also enjoy the positiveness of mixing with other GrowFARM clients at regional and national meetings. They are confident now that they can continue to make real profits, and they will be able to choose more options for their future.

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