Rayner Reckons

May 28

Using fat scores on farm

Posted on Monday, May 28, 2018

Fat scoring is one of the most valuable skills you can learn as a producer.  The fatness of your cattle determines not just their suitability to market specifications.  Within a breed herd, fatness is a key indicator on the herds ability to meet key production goals such as joining, calving and weaning.

There are six fat scores used to describe the level of fat on an animal.  These scores are based on the depth of fat between the animals hide and the muscle or bone beneath the skin.  Fatness is assessed at both the 12th rib of the animal and at the P8 site.

The P8 site is quite a specific point, and many producers often ask me where it actually is on an animal.  If you draw a line from the high bone of the animal – the third sacral vertebrae down until it intersects with a line drawn at right angles from the pin bone, that is where you find the P8 site.

When most people think of using fat scores, its often in terms of deciding if cattle have sufficient fat for market requirements. 

However in a breeding herd, fat scores are also a really useful tool.  In the first instance, fat score at calving time will influence how long it will take a cow to recommence cycling after calving.  The higher the fat score, the more likely it will be that the cow will return to oestrus within the minimum time frame to achieve a calf every year. 

We know that it normally takes a Fat Score 3 cow about 50 days to return to oestrus.  Where as a cow that is Fat Score 2 will take another 20 days.  So when you do the maths of pregnancy at 282 days, plus a period to return to oestrus, you’ll work out you don’t have a big window of opportunity to have fat Score 2 cows successfully delivering a calf every 12 months.

In practical terms, fat scoring is a useful way to draft your cattle into management groups.  I actually think your cow management groups need to be constantly reviewed.  If you can draft your cows into groups based on size, weight and fat score, you will be better positioned to efficiently meet their feed requirements.

Drafting cows into groups based on these factors, means you will have the opportunity to adjust nutrition to lower fat score animals if you need to with the use of supplements.  Or if you are planning on selling a group of cattle, these can often be the easiest and most readily identified group of cattle to sell.

I reckon its also important to recognize that as Fat Scores drop, you have to be prepared to action some immediate strategies to prevent significant weight loss and to avoid compromising animal welfare.  Once your animals approach a Fat Score 2 level, they are starting to metabolise body reserves of muscle and are losing weight. 

If you can recognize this in your cows you can move to correct their nutrition, or make decisions about decreasing stock numbers before weight loss becomes significant.

Once a beef animal falls into the category of Fat Score 1, they are considered to be AT RISK from a welfare perspective.  This means you have to commence a program of management to address their condition through feeding programs.  You would be looking at ensuring calves are weaned off – to allow the cow to use all the energy she consumes for herself and not have to produce milk. 

Calves should be weaned onto a ration that allows them to grow correctly and without setbacks that are lily if there was no intervention.

Cows that are AT RISK (Fat Score 1) should be drafted into a separate group and managed so that all animals are able to achieve their daily intake requirements. This also means it will be easier to monitor these animals as a group and provide other treatments if required such as parasite controls.

Over the last few weeks as drought conditions extend further across NSW, I’ve been visiting a number of farms to help draft cows into groups ad develop specific management strategies for these groups. 

One of the key things I’ve learnt is that producers have been looking at their cows for so long, they don’t notice the variation in the herd, until we’ve drafted them up.  Once they are drafted and plans set in place, its rewarding to see the pressure ease on producers and a clear plan of action taking place. 

So if you are unsure about how you can use fat scores properly, or you’ve been looking at your cows for too long, perhaps its time to as for some help.  I’m more than happy to come out and work a plan out with you and draft the cows into groups with you.  Don’t forget I’m only a phone call away!

Mar 07

How do you prioritise risk?

Posted on Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Its vey common to hear how much risk there is in agriculture.  I know I hear the phrase “farming is a risky business” fairly frequently.  To some degree that’s true.  There are risks with the weather and the markets.  There are risks associated with production from diseases and pests.  There are the risks working with machinery, animals and working in isolation. 

However choosing to focus on the negative side of risk is also a risk.  Choosing not to do something, simply as a reaction to a perceived level of risk might actually be the wrong thing to do for your business or for yourself.

Lets face it; risk is part of life! There are risks with everything we do.  The way we manage those risks depends on our experiences, our knowledge of similar or past events.  It includes an appreciation of the situation and a decision to way up the possible outcomes of that response.  So risk management is something we all do!

In day-to-day life making risk management decisions needs to happen in our head, and often quite quickly!  However for a business, making risk management decisions on the fly, often leads to missed opportunities or costly mistakes that time and money to correct.

So how do you look at risk?  How can you plan for risks and develop a business structure that is robust enough to respond to risk and capitalize on opportunities that often come along?

One of the tools I find most useful comes from the work health and safety industry.  Called a risk score calculator, its basically a way to plot the level of risk to an activity or an event.

The tool plots the Likelihood of something occurring.  

There are five levels, from Almost Certain to Rare.  

The way I use these levels is to look at the data I’ve collected on the business.  Has it happened before, is it happening often, does it happen all the time?  In my mind, that’s the whole point of collecting data!

The second step is to decide what are the consequences of an event happening?  Is it Catastrophic – which if you prefer is an easy way to say if this occurs will someone die, or will huge losses occur?  And then through Moderate to insignificant consequences. 

When you determine that level it’s fairly straightforward to decide if the risk you are considering is extreme, high, medium or low. 

Effectively using this tool helps you prioritize your actions and future plans.  Extreme risks are the ones you need to fix straight away.  

Quite simply you need to consider what can you change to lower that risk?  Is it a change to the way you operate?  Is it a physical change to infrastructure?  Does it require you to invest in skills and training?

Setting priorities is a huge part of risk management.  You can’t do everything at once!  And while there are always jobs to do, some of them are probably less important and can wait a while. 

I reckon the real value of using this tool comes from actually sitting down and having a rational and objective assessment of the situation.  As I said previously, your data will help you decide if the situation is likely to occur or not.  The consequences of the event help set its place on your list of priorities.

I’ve recently been working with a producer using this tool to evaluate the impact of weather extremes.  Their farm data shows clearly rainfall is coming in more intense events and the periods between rainfall is growing.  

The pasture data shows changes in growing days as well.  That data shows that it is likely they can no longer rely on certain species of temperate pastures to finish cattle for their traditional market. 

The consequence of that is major impact on the business.  The risk to that business is rated as High.  So we have been working to develop pastures that suit the changes recorded, with more sub tropical species introduced into the mix.  We have also started focusing on alternative markets so that cattle hit the specifications.

These are all big business changes.  But we are making them to respond to a clearly determined level of risk.  More importantly with my clients, we have a set of priorities to focus on.  In sitting down to discuss the ways to respond, we were able to look at opportunities and new directions before choosing the best option for this business.

It also highlights the importance of collecting good data.  I like using data to drive innovation on farm.  Responding to and lowering risk needs some innovative ideas!  If your data can’t help with those decisions, then you really do need to rethink how you are operating.

Over the next month I’m visiting several new clients to look at their programs and offer some advice.  One of my first questions will be how do you manage risk?  You can be sure we will go through this exercise and work up a few priorities! 

Don’t forget if you want a hand to help set your priority list in order or to look over the data you need, I’m always happy to come and ask the questions and get you going!

Jan 25

Efficient Beef Production

Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Do you consider yourself an efficient beef producer?  I guess that is a challenging question for a lot of producers.  Having worked with hundreds of producers for almost 25 years, I have to say there is a huge range between producers’ levels of efficiency and profitability. 

I’m also certain that there some people thinking about that question, and wondering what do I mean by efficient?  One of the best definitions of efficiency I’ve come across is “a system achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense”. 

In beef production terms I guess the word efficiency relates to the levels of production achieved compared to how much input goes into the system.  This could be measured against production per cow, kilograms of beef per hectare and the cost to produce one kilogram of beef. 

In early January 2017, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) released the Global Benchmarking Results for Beef producers.  Its an excellent report, and has given me lots to think about.  I’ve also seen it reported on in several of the rural media outlets.  Now depending which site you read, this report is both full of good news for Australian beef producers, and at the same time has plenty of bad news.

The good news is that Australian beef production is considered to be an efficient beef producing nation with a low cost of production.  The downside?  Well Australia is seen as having a moderate to low level of calf weaning weight and lower cow herd productivity.  We are also seen as achieving moderate to high weight gains in southern systems and low gains in the northern extensive systems.

I reckon that it’s easy to just take these reports and look only at the good news.  Yes we are an efficient producer of beef.  However take some time to read through the report.  There is a big variation in key indicators of efficiency.  A good example is weaning rates (calves per 100 cows).  In general southern systems record weaning rates of around 90% and northern systems much lower at 50 -80%.

Having said that, not all southern systems are running herds with their weaning rates.  The key measure is calves weaned per 100 cows. I know plenty of herds with much lower rates.  There are herds with weaning rates that range from 78% to 88%.  So somewhere along the line 12 to 22 cows in every hundred are not rearing a calf to weaning.

If that is the case what happened to the calf?  Did the cow conceive?  Did she lose the calf before calving, at calving or somewhere between calving and weaning? Increasing calves born per cow makes a dramatic difference to the overall profitability of any breeding business, so its worth looking at your records to see how well you are doing. 

I was also interested to look at the measure of total live weight produced per cow.  According to the report, the global range is between 100 - 480kgs produced per cow per year.  The Australian systems fall in the middle, with ranges from 210 – 340kg.  How many kilograms produced per cow per year is the result of may factors, from the genetics you use, the maturity pattern of your cows, the nutritional system you provide and the fertility of your herd.

I reckon these reports are incredibly valuable if you are prepared to look beyond the good news headlines!  I’ve just picked two areas that producers can look at in their own systems and decide if they are really as efficient as they could be.

Don’t just accept the blanket statement that Australian beef producers are some of the most efficient in the world.  Spend the time to think about your own system.  If you can push yourself to get maximum return for the efforts you are putting in, you might be surprised how much more productive and profitable your business can be. 

If you don’t know where to start looking, then why not give me a call? I’m happy to have a look at what you’re doing.  I reckon we could come up with a few easy ways for you to become a more efficient beef producer.

Jun 23

Keeping out of the cold

Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How do you cope with cold weather?  Some people seem to cope better with cold weather.  After working in the New England region of NSW for many years, I don't mind the cold too much.  I find that I can always put on some extra clothes, find a pair of gloves and even resort to a fleece lined hat for those cold bleak days!  And on the days when it is too cold, wet or miserable to be outside, there are always things to do inside to stay out of the cold.

However, for your livestock, the cold is an entirely different matter.  Livestock are impacted by cold weather, and if cold conditions are accompanied by some rain and wind, the impacts can be fatal.

Many people think sheep are the animals that are the most susceptible to the impact of cold.  However cattle can be just as susceptible.  

Several years ago I was told by a producer about an experience where some cattle were imported from a station in north Queensland to the New England.  These cattle were brahmans just older than weaner age.  The day after they arrived a snow event occurred and sadly some animals couldn't cope and died.  

So cold conditions, wet weather, wind can all combine to have devastating impacts on your animals.  And unlike the northern hemisphere, bringing animals inside is not really possible in Australia.

Can livestock cope with cold weather?  The answer is they certainly can.  The process of rumination does help them cope, as the rumination process releases plenty of heat that helps the animal stay a bit warmer.  The other things that help animals cope are the condition that the animals are in.  Livestock in average or better fat scores will cope more easily than lean or low fat scored animals.  

Animals that are at risk are those that are in low condition. Young animals and older wake animals are also at risk, as are lactating animals or sheep fresh off shears.

So how can you help your animals cope with the cold?  There are a few things you can do.  These include:

  • Provide hay for your livestock.  Hay is slower to digest, which means the rumen will produce more heat as digestion occurs.  This is especially important when the paddock feed is limited.
  • Put animals in sheltered paddocks.  If you have ever been in a paddock sheltered by some trees you will know the difference in temperature, particularly getting out of the wind.  Grazing your stock in sheltered paddocks, with timber or protections that can reduce the wind chill will make a big difference to your animals.
  • Avoid importing livestock from environments that not as cold!  Livestock need some time to adjust to a new environment.  They may not eat the new pastures, may be unhappy after transport and may have had time to explore their new home in time to find the sheltered paddocks or places in the paddock.  Being hungry, cold and stressed places these animals at risk, and if they are young, weak or light in condition, the cold is a real threat.
  • Draft your herd into fat scores.  Its always good management to draft your herd so that you have them in similar weights and fat scores.  The low conditioned animals, and the lighter ones need to be given particular care at the best of times, but during cold, this care is particularly important.  These are the animals that should have first option for shelter and definitely need your attention.

Fortunately the cold weather in Australia doesn't last for too long.  Snow is an occasion and doesn't bury pastures for months on end.  The big risks are the cold windy days as cold fronts sweep up from the Antarctic.  I reckon we are also fortunate in knowing when these events are on the way, so there is time to plan ahead.  I reckon if cold is an issue for your stock, you need to think if you can help them cope more easily with hay and shelter.  And if you are thinking of purchasing or moving a few animals onto your place, I reckon if you can consider the traditional impact on cold and determine if it is the best time for your region and for your animals to do that movement.

If you're happy with all that, and you've helped your animals cope as well as they can, I reckon you've earned some time inside by the fire!

Apr 10

How often have you stopped and taken the time to consider your farming business?  If you can answer that question, then I reckon you're a member of a pretty small group of farmers nationally!  When most people stop to think about their farm as a business, its around tax time, completing a BAS statement or as part of financial discussions. 

Assessing your financial performance is not just important, its vital for your business.  But its not the only thing you need to be assessing.  Every farm is made up of systems that contribute to the level of production and the financial returns your system producers.  

These systems are the obvious ones such as the livestock your carry, the pastures and soils that you rely on, the infrastructure that supports your programs.  Less obvious are the systems that bring it all together, your management skills, as well as the specialist skills that you need to manage your livestock, your pastures and soils as well as the specialist marketing skills you need when you look to make a return from your production.

So how do you assess if your enterprise is running to its full potential?  
When you are making your assessment, how objective are you?
The four steers in this photograph are all the same age, and were all from the same property when this photograph was taken.  The variation between the four of these steers is obvious in the picture.  

However variation like this is common across the herd.  The flow on effect of that variation impacted on sale times, sale weights and income on the steer and surplus heifer sales.  It also impacted on joining weights and the conception rates recorded in the fixed time joining that was being followed.

One of the problems in rectifying this situation was the owner was so used to seeing the herd, the variation was no longer obvious.  The flow on effects were being ignored or not addressed correctly, instead the owner focussed on other areas to manage.

I reckon the problem is that most people are so used to seeing their operation every day, they lose their ability to see the variations, or to be objective about the strengths and weaknesses that exist in their systems, and in their farm as a whole.  When you can't identify your strengths or your weaknesses, it makes it very hard to capitalise on the opportunities that exist for you, or to prepare for the threats that may be coming.

One of the key roles of the RaynerAg business is to provide producers with an objective view of their program.  Helping reduce the variation in a program is one practical approach.  But its not just about working through the cow herd and taking out the extremes!

More importantly, I reckon its my role to help identify the strengths and weaknesses that impact on the whole business.  And then to work with the producer to come up with a plan to use the opportunities available to be more productive and profitable, and to be prepared for the threats that could be coming.

If I can help my clients take a more objective look at their business, and to do that on a regular basis, I reckon I've done a good days work!

So if you're part of the large group of Australian farmers that haven't had an objective look at your business in a while, why don't you get in touch?  I'll be happy to help you see the variation and work out ways to fix it.

Dec 01

I love a successful outcome!

Posted on Monday, December 01, 2014

In a number of these blogs for Rayner Reckons, I've written about the importance of working to achieve outcomes.   I have a deeply held belief that every business should know what goals they are working towards.  Those goals or outcomes don't have to mean that your business is to move into the top ten beef producers in the country, or to own more cattle in the region than anyone else.  

Your goals could be as personal as making sure you and your family can have a holiday away from the farm every year.  Or it could be a decision to structure your operations to respond to seasonal changes without significantly altering your enterprise.   

Whatever your outcomes are, its important to work towards those by structuring your daily, weekly, and monthly activities around the best tactics to help you achieve your outcomes on time and as efficiently as you can.

One of the key outcomes for RaynerAg is to help my clients find ways to more efficiently meet their goals.  

This year I've been working to help the team at Classimate services offer producers who want to market their livestock on line a credible, independent assessment of the structure, temperament, fertility & muscling of their cattle. 

This system would complement other data breeders want to provide their clients, such as EBVs or pedigrees on their animals.  I've written in previous Rayner Reckons about the way we have developed this concept.

For me there are some outcomes I wanted to achieve.  The first was to develop a system that ticked the boxes for industry credibility, repeatability, relevance and most importantly usefulness to producers, both from a selling and from a buying position.  

To achieve this goal I worked closely with a team of people who I respect for their industry knowledge and experience.  Together we developed a cattle assessment system that ticks those boxes.

The next goal was to actually undertake assessments for a producer who wanted to market their cattle on line.  As a new concept I wondered how producers would respond to the new opportunity.

It turns out there has been plenty of interest from producers in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. The first cattle to be assessed for the system are based in Gin Gin, Queensland.  

I was really pleased to have over 100 cows come through the yards to be assessed under the system I had developed with my colleagues. I reckon that in itself was a successful outcome to the project I'd been working on.

I reckon the next goal is to use the assessment data in two ways.  The first will be to provide the owners with the ability to market their cattle with the independent assessment scores we allocate each animal.  And secondly I want to provide the owner with a benchmark of their animals structure, the trends and observations I've seen, as well as some suggestions on how to manage those trends.  

That way I reckon there is real value in having your cattle assessed.  One, you can market them to a wider audience, and two, you can have something objective to work towards in your herd improvement process.

I'm really pleased this project is achieving the outcomes I wanted, its also reminded me of a few lessons that can be applied to any project you're working on to achieve your goals.

1. Break your goal down into a series of smaller goals so that you can manage them more easily

2. Look to your networks and seek the skills to help you get to your goal

3. Be prepared to invest in those skills or people.  It might mean paying for advice or assistance, but that is investment that pays a bigger return when you achieve your goals.

4.  Think about the other positive outcomes your achievements might bring.  It could be new options to manage your business, to market your livestock or in my case provide additional tailored support to producers.

I really love the outcomes from this project.  For me, I've been able to see some great cattle, meet some fantastic new producers, work more closely with a great group of colleagues as well as implementing a great cattle assessment program.  Its been a great few months, and I'm looking forward to setting some new goals to work towards.

Nov 12

Why I love my job!

Posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One of the features of my job is spending a lot of time traveling to visit clients. I don't mind travel so much.  It gives me a chance to think about my clients and what is happening with them in regards to the season, their programs and the new strategies we could look at to lift their businesses to a new level of production & profitability. 

I reckon its important to take the time to gather some thoughts and reflect on what they mean and could mean to the advice and services I provide.  

Every now and then I also get to thinking about how fortunate I am in my job!  In the last week Ive been part of a few events that have reminded me of the reasons why I love my job.  The events have all been a little different.  One was some pregnancy testing on commercial and stud cows.  

The other was participating in a seminar focussed on latest pasture research, and the last was working with some of my longest clients who hosted a visit of the International Red Poll World Congress.  All very different, but all very rewarding.

This week I wanted to write a Rayner Reckons that highlights why I love my job.

  1. My clients: My business is built around providing producers with information that is technically sound, practically based and appropriate for their situation.  And while that is the service I aim to provide, without clients wanting these services, the business wouldn't work.  The clients who I have been fortunate to work with are great people for many reasons.  Firstly they are passionate about their businesses, and are looking to make their businesses operate that little bit better in all areas.  I love working with people who are enthusiastic, passionate and committed.  I'm also humbled by their trust and confidence on the services and information I offer to them.  I have to say I look forward to working with my clients on all of their projects!                                                                           

  2. Sharing Information: I love sharing information with others.  There are so many fantastic research outcomes; practical solutions and good ideas that can be used to make any agricultural business perform even more effectively.  I find it rewarding to share these outcomes and use them to help my clients or have an positive impact on agriculture generally.          

  3. Being challenged in my role:  So much of my job satisfaction comes from the responding to the challenges associated with agricultural production. I want to help my clients better respond to the challenges for their enterprises.  These can be dealing with the drought; improving herd fertility, increasing their market returns.  These challenges are ones that require me to keep looking for new ideas, new information and new solutions.  its really rewarding to step up and help address them.                    

  4. Working with livestock:  Not everyone gets to work outside and to work with animals!  I like cattle!  I enjoy working with them and improving my handling skills so that animals move and flow without unnecessary stress or excitement.  I enjoy the chance to help my clients select animals that are best suited to their environment and to their markets and to out plans in place to breed that style of animal in the future.  There's no doubt this is one of the best parts of my job.                                             

  5. Travelling to new places: In the past 18 months I have worked with clients from South Australia, NSW, QLD, Victoria and even in Malaysia.  Its been really exciting to visit new places and see new ways of going about agriculture.  Having said that, I reckon I get just as much excitement visiting a new farm within an hour of home to do some preg testing or look at bulls. 

There are lots of reasons to love my job, and these are only a few of the reasons.  I reckon agriculture offers so many rewarding and pleasurable outcomes.  

Having said that, I still reckon one of the nicest parts of my job is having the chance to meet and work with a great group of people from all parts of Australia.  

And that is definitely why I love my job!

Jun 05

Nice to know, or need to know?

Posted on Thursday, June 05, 2014

This morning I was listening to a radio interview on the opportunities for careers in agriculture.  The person being interviewed talked about the wide varieties of roles there were in agriculture and in particular the roles for people to give farmers new information from the research and science being done in agriculture.   

I've been thinking about that interview for a few hours now!  I admit I was troubled by some of the points this person made in the interview.  I agree there are exciting and amazing opportunities in agriculture to build a rewarding and fulfilling career and life. 

I'm struggling with the assumptions made by this person that helping farmers is just about giving them information or the results of scientific studies.  This person was obviously talking about the role for people to build a career in agricultural extension.  To simply describe extension as taking research and giving it to farmers is pretty outdated and doesn't reflect what agricultural extension should be.  I also think its pretty insulting to farmers. 

Over 50 years ago, extension used to be described in this way.  Farmers were seen to be devoid of knowledge of best production practices and desperate for new research.  The extension process was seen as a way of filling farmers full of new knowledge and better practices.  

This then lead to people describing farmers as being innovative, or early adopters, or laggards when they didn't take on the new ideas.

The worst thing about these labels, I reckon, is the unfairness of them.  In their lives people make decisions about how to go about things, based on a range of reasons.  These include the information or knowledge you have.  But it is also the practical application of knowledge, the time it takes to do something, how much it might cost or what has to be given up to do something new.  

Its no different for someone deciding on a new TV or a new way to do business.  These motivations underpin why people do what they do and when they do it.

In agricultural extension terms, there are two things we can do.  We can make people aware of new information.  Or we can work with producers and others to put new information into practice.  

I get worried by people who think all that needs to be done is to tell farmers about new information and thats all that they need to do.  I call that the nice to know approach!  Field days, seminars and newsletters are handy ways to share the nice to know things.  

There's a huge difference between nice to know and need to know!

The stuff that is need to know are the practical things to make information work properly, safely and efficiently!

Things like:  

  • How do I feed this product - not just how much?
  • Will this feed effect my market strategy?
  • What do I put on the Vendor Declaration?
  • Can I do it this way instead because I don't want to buy new equipment..

The list of need to know questions can be quite long with new research, or it can be really straightforward.  The thing is, the need to know part of extension is pretty important.  It takes trust in the person helping you.  It also means trusting the farmer you are working with to share their thoughts and actions, so you know you are getting it right!  

You have to understand the practicalities of someones business and the realities of the industry which can be very different to an academic or theoretical understanding.

So what does this mean really?  I guess it means that if you want to build a career in agriculture based on sharing knowledge and information, you will have to be able to do more than just run a field day and promote the nice to know information.  It takes time to build knowledge and experience so you can work to share the need to know with farmers and industry.  

For farmers, I think the bigger challenge will be finding people you can trust to work with you on the need to know subjects. I'm continuing to work with many producers on these subjects.  Each time we do a job, I know a little bit more of the need to know things, which in turn grows to help everyone I work with in the future.

I think listening to that interview today reenforced my desire to be the person farmers turn to when they are looking for someone to help make changes in their businesses.  I want to keep being the "need to know" advisor.  As long as I keep doing that, I reckon the people paying me to work in their businesses will continue to get the service they want and need, and I can keep my rewarding and fulfilling career in agriculture.

May 29

Are you coming to our bull sale?

Posted on Thursday, May 29, 2014

There are some questions which seem to be, in current terms, the trending questions.  I've shared a few in recent Rayner Reckons.  The latest trend is associated with the upcoming round of northern NSW bull sales.  I'm pretty sure most people have been asked "are you coming to our bull sale?"

In my previous career with the NSW DPI, as the District Beef Cattle Officer, getting out to bull sales was an important part of the job.  There were a few reasons for this.  Being at sales gave me a chance to catch up with producers, see what was happening in the seed stock sector, and get a feel for the optimism people had for the year ahead.  

Being at a sale was also a great opportunity to talk to producers about how to understand EBVs; what to look for in structure or muscle and even to create some discussion about target markets.  

In many ways being at a sale also helped the vendors.  

There's no doubt the lead up to and the morning of a bull sale are some of the most demanding times bull breeders will face.  They need to speak with existing clients; meet and get to know new clients; make sure the agents are fully briefed on the day and arrange countless other things to make sure the sale goes to plan!  

So having the local beef cattle officer at the sale was a good thing.  The vendor & agents would often encourage producers to chat to me about those things such as EBVs or the merits of bulls, confident their clients were getting good reliable advice which may help producers buying bulls at the sale.

In developing RaynerAg, attending bull sales is still one of the key services I like to undertake.  However, I've had to make some decisions about how and why I go to sales.  The simple matter is my business is to provide advice to clients to help them run their business more effectively. When I attend sales now I have to do so to provide that service, and I now have to make that a business decision.

Quite a few bull breeders have asked me if I will be coming to their sale this year.  

Several have offered me an opportunity to receive a rebate if I bring clients along who purchase bulls a the sale, similar to that offered to agents introducing new clients.

I've actually chosen to decline this offer.  

I'm determined to offer my clients advice which is independent, and not driven by the need to earn  commission on sales, be it bulls or animal health products etc.

Instead I've offered the vendors an alternative suggestion.  For a fixed fee I will attend their sale day and be on hand to provide purchasers with advice on the bulls.  This includes understanding EBVs, comparing bulls in the catalogue, caring for the bull when it is delivered, as well as other questions the purchaser might have.  Because I'm not working on a commission purchasers can feel confident in asking me to compare bulls and also to present advice which is truly independent.  

The vendors can also feel comfortable knowing that they can steer clients towards me to address their questions and concerns about bulls.  This just gives the vendors a chance to work through their sale day with some more support and be confident their new and existing clients are not being neglected!

I reckon this service may not be for every bull seller this year.  However for the breeders I am working with, they have told me their clients were happy they had the option (if they wanted it) to seek some help or to bounce some ideas off when looking at the bulls in the catalogue.

I'm looking forward to the sales I'm going to this season.  I definitely looking forward to continuing to help producers and bull breeders achieve their goals in buying and selling bulls which will make a positive difference in beef enterprises in the next few years.

May 20

So hows RaynerAg going?

Posted on Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote in Rayner Reckons the most common question I'd been asked was "so how was the show?"  That question has definitely been overtaken by another genuine question, "so hows RaynerAg going?"

The short answer to that question is simply, its going well!  

I know I have shared some of the highlights for the past 12 months, so in many ways I've had a chance to reflect on how RaynerAg has been developing.  

Taking time to review progress is important for any business.  Its one of the things I do with the RaynerAg clients.  However, the review is only part of a business plan.  I think knowing your goals and working towards them are also important.   

Having business goals is essential.  I also think you should review your goals occasionally and see if they are still relevant, or appropriate for you, your business and for your clients.  

How we measure things is also important.  Just recently I read an article discussing issues surrounding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  It seems like every organisations has KPIs these days.  As a tool they can be pretty useful to help keep things on track.  But like any tool they can also be misued used and the source of problems!

I occasionally see people who are very caught up in achieving their KPIs, for example meeting their pasture growth targets.  The problem occasionally is, they are so focussed on the KPI, they forget the whole point of growing that pasture was to produce more kilograms of beef per hectare!  

Setting goals, and using KPIs to monitor how you are going is good business practice.  Equally important is taking time to review if it is actually working and still suited to your own personal goals.

So whats ahead for RaynerAg?  I haven't actually set any KPIs!  However, I do have some plans which I'd like to achieve in the next 7 months.  

  • I'm delivering two 1 day courses for show stewards.  These will focus on the skills needed to run judging rings.  Skills such as arranging a schedule, marshalling cattle, scoring classes, presenting ribbons, ring craft & public speaking.  

  • I'd love to have all 40 places in these courses taken up, and requests for three more before the end of the year!

  • This August I will be arranging a Field Day designed to update producers on the best techniques to manage their cows through calving and provide latest industry research.  Its been a while since I've held a large field day and I'm looking forward to planning and holding this one

  • I also want to establish a beef producers group, focussed on livestock assessment and monitoring compliance with target markets.

And most importantly, I want to keep working closely with producers to find the most effective ways to improve their business operations and help them make a little but more money!

Next time I'm asked how's RaynerAg going, I'm going to say not just that its going well, but the next few months look pretty exciting! 


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