Rayner Reckons

Dec 06

Connecting with your customers

Posted on Tuesday, December 06, 2016

As food producers do you connect with the broader community?  I know many farmers, and for that matter, people in country Australia feel there is a disconnection between the farm and the plate. 

In some ways there is a huge disconnection.  Society as a whole has changed so rapidly that we are all grappling with the challenges in our daily lives.  People have moved closer to large centers for work.  Increased mechanization and efficiencies on farms mean less people have direct jobs in agriculture.  So somewhere along the way a gap has opened between the farm and the people.

While we often talk about this disconnect, I reckon we often overlook there is a deep interest and support from the broader community for farming.  In my work I’m often asked to speak about farming to the broader community.  I always come away feeling there is a deep desire to understand more about farming, its challenges, its rewards, and more importantly I sense a real value for farming among the people I talk to.

One of the more important roles of the Sydney Royal Easter Show is to showcase agriculture to the broader urban communities. The livestock pavilions and the district exhibits are consistently rated as the most important attractions to the public.

So, as a farming community or as an individual producer, how can we connect to our consumers and meet their interest in our business?  I guess there are plenty of ways that we do this.  I did mention our traditional activities such as the Easter Show.  But its just as important to see the local show as part of this connection. 

Increasingly I see farmers sharing their stories through social media.  There are Facebook pages, twitter accounts, and Instagram posts showing the variety of a day in Australian agriculture.  I personally enjoy the blogs from the contributors from Central Station

These are great ways of sharing stories.  However I think the next step will be to show our skills as producers and business operators.  I think this may happen through the connection of our farm data with other data sources. 

If you think of the demand for traceability and food safety, there is a great story for us to share.  The challenge is to link our on farm QA records with our industry systems like the NVD system and with processor information and present it to the consumer as a whole of life story. 

This week a company called Aglive (www.aglive.com) showed me their progress in linking our on farm data with industry QA systems and processor information.  I have to say I think systems like these will be part of how we connect with our consumers.  True I think they will still want to see our stock at the show, read our stories and see our pictures on line. However I reckon these connections will become stronger as they start to see the things we do on farm with the data we capture being used to sow how clean and safe our food systems are.

I think the next few years will be pretty exciting, and hopefully see a narrowing of the gap between farms and consumers as we share what we do in new and engaging ways.

Nov 29

Buying Livestock Online?

Posted on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Over the last year or so, I’ve been watching the rapid growth of livestock selling on line.  Now, on line selling is not actually a new concept.  In Australia we have had AuctionsPlus that is the largest online seller of livestock in the country.  AuctionsPlus was preceded by CALM – Computer Aided Livestock Marketing.

One of the great developments with the online livestock marketing has been the creation of objective terms to describe cattle and sheep.  The language we use to describe fatness and muscle score was a direct outcome from the move to sell livestock objectively, and more importantly digitally.

So to me, on line marketing of livestock is a standout for the agricultural industry.

I guess I’m not the only one to be excited by the opportunities that on line selling offers.  After all it’s a very inexpensive way to advertise.  You can advertise with pictures as well as written descriptions.  And now with the creation of Internet sites like Gum Tree, you can pretty much buy and sell anything!

At the same time, you only need to browse through Facebook to see any number of pages that range from “Buy, Sell or Swap” to specific pages selling livestock.  Now, I guess that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  At the end of the day, it’s a way for people to sell livestock in a manner that works best for them.  It also means you might find an opportunity to purchase something you’ve been looking for.

But just because you are selling or buying through Facebook or Gum Tree, you still have to ensure you comply with the legislation that exists around livestock sales and movements. 

This means you need to ensure that you comply with the NLIS requirements.  So if you are buying animals, you will need to ensure that the animals are transferred on the NLIS database to your PIC.  If you are selling you have to make sure the animals are tagged with an approved NLIS tag and that you also must complete a current National Vendor Declaration (NVD).  Remember the NVD can be used as your Transported Stock Statement. 

These points are important to remember, particularly if you are a small or new producer.  However your animals are part of the industry, and so traceability is just as important regardless of buying on line from a Facebook page or through the sale yard system.  And in regards to transported stock statements, the legislation means police or stock inspectors have a duty to ask for yours.  So don’t get caught!

The other part of buying on line from various sites is for you to ensure you consider the risks to your business.  In the first instance you need to consider the usual issues of biosecurity. So think about quarantining new livestock to minimize the spread of weeds or parasites. 

I’d also think its pretty important you do your homework on just what it is that you are buying.  In the Auctions Plus system, you have the assurance that an accredited assessor describes all animals.  You can check their status, and if the animals don’t meet the description you can speak to Auctions Plus about the issue.  

In generic sales pages, you won’t have that fall back.  You really are making a choice to accept another person’s description.  So if the animal isn’t what you expect, is lighter, heavier, more stirry than you expected, you have no comeback.  That’s part of buyer beware and I guess it applies to any purchases we make.  But it’s important that you do the risk assessment first, cover all the options and then you can at least feel you’ve done as much as you can.

I reckon on line selling in all their forms, are going to be part of how we do business into the future.  So why not make the most of the opportunities.  Just don’t let the convenience of looking on line become complacency or laziness! If you do your homework and make sure you meet your obligations for identification, traceability and movement restrictions, then I reckon the online world can be another tool in your business toolbox.  


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