Rayner Reckons

Jun 11

Do your capabilities match your ambitions?

Posted on Thursday, June 11, 2015

In the last few weeks I have had four conversations with producers who are incredibly enthusiastic about a new plan.  The plans were all different of course, but the enthusiasm was very similar.  I love enthusiasm, and I am incredibly passionate about aiming for a goal.  But!  There are times when I do wonder, if the plan is realistic!

No doubt you have seen business coaches, life, coaches and other people sharing inspirational advice.  Its not uncommon to see them as a motivational quote.  You know the sort of thing, "Dream big" or "The only thing holding you back is yourself". There's nothing wrong with these motivations.  It is vital to aim at goals and work towards them.  

Having said that, dreams don't just happen! In a business, your ambitions are realised through hard work, through focussing on achieving targets, and on ensuring your capabilities meet your ambitions!

One of the discussions I had last week focussed on producing cattle to meet a certain market specification.  The specification was pretty tight for weight and fat.  Underpinning that requirement was the need for the cattle to be certified as PCAS.  The top price on offer was almost $1.00/kg carcase weight above the normal rate.  It was a really attractive option, and if you could produce cattle that met the certification requirements and more importantly hit the specification, the return was going to be significant.

However, there were a few issues.  the most easily resolved was gaining PCAS certification.  It required some paperwork and a bit of homework, but the effort involved was more than offset by the potential market opportunities.

The bigger issue was simply to do with the cattle that the producer owned, and the feeding regime the cattle were on. 

Quite simply the cattle were never going to hit the specification for weight and fat.  Most of them would have been too lean at the weight, and the grid discount for under finished cattle was pretty big.

At the same time the cattle were grazing a feed that was declining in quality, and were not gaining the weight needed to finish in time.  They really needed a supplement to get the best use from the feed, but the options for the producer are limited by the PCAS requirements and the availability of supplements.  

So there were a few things going wrong.  The cattle, the feed and the restrictions of the program meant that the ambition to produce to that market wasn't going to happen easily.  

The discussion I had with the producer was really interesting.  The conversation started with the disappointment that was felt by the producer over the whole process.  They felt they had wasted their time and there was some blame being levelled for that. Blame on themselves for wasting time and more interestingly, for listening to the wrong advice.  The comment was "I should have never listened to them.."  and "they said that.."

I'm not sure who these mysterious advisors are.  I have a sneaking suspicion that advice was given by a range of people, from neighbours, agents, articles in the paper and perhaps a drinking mate in the local pub!  

I have learnt that people listen with half an ear to things, often hearing what they want to hear.  If it is a way to get more money, or in this care to chase a more lucrative market, the listening is often filtered through this filter of "getting more money".

The other conversation that stood out this week was with a producers wanting to complain about a market price at auction for steers sent to a show.  The issue was a poor return and that it wasn't fair to see a low price for these animals after all the hard work that had been done to prepare them.  It was an interesting conversation!  Again, the issue was a bit more complex.  The steers in question were under weight, had little fat cover and weren't really ready for the market.  However the exhibitor had been told, that by preparing them and taking them to the show, the returns at the sale "shouldn't be too bad.."

That advice had come from someone who hadn't actually seen the exhibitors steers, didn't know the weight of the steers or even what they were going to be shown for.  Yet the exhibitor accepted their advice and as result had a disappointing experience as a result!  Again there was a lot of self blame for listening to bad advice and for asking the wrong people for input.

So what do you make of those experiences.  I guess there are a few things.  Firstly, if you are embarking on a new plan or working for an ambition you hold dearly, you need to be realistic about your capabilities.  Can you really achieve that outcome with the resources you currently have to hand?  Do your cattle really suit that market?  Are your pastures really up to that level of production?  Does that certification restrict you too much?

A more deeper question is what are you trying to achieve?  If you want to make more returns and better profits, is there another way, that uses your resources efficiently and effectively?  Can your ambitions and capabilities be more aligned in a different way?

I also have to ask, who are you getting advice from?  If you are getting advice from someone who doesn't know what they are talking about, then really, what do you expect?

Just owning cows isn't always a qualification!  Can your advisor explain the challenges and opportunities for your business. Have they looked at your animals and pastures?  Do they really understand your system?  Do they actually understand the market, or is it just pub talk?  So many people talk a lot of rubbish that they have half heard or over heard in the pub / cafe / saleyards.  

I reckon most people wouldn't make business decisions on gossip.  Equally I don't think you would ask for computer repair advice from a plumber!  So if you are looking for advice to help you match up your capabilities and your ambitions look for someone who actually can come and give you what you need.

Don't be afraid to invest in the right advice.  Part of the disappointment in the conversations I had this week was a level of regret for lost income, lost opportunity, and more importantly for lost time and resources.  Investing in the right advice at the right time would have made a big difference for both of these producers.  I reckon free advice isn't always good advice.  And when you lose money, you will always be further from your ambitions!


May 20

Did you really tweet that?

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I have to admit I get excited when I talk to people about social media and using it in business.  When I say social media, most people seem to roll their eyes as if to say, whats the point, or suggest the only value in social media is to have an online gossip or waste time.

I reckon that is a big underestimation of the usefulness of social media, particularly in business.  A quick look at some of the numbers in Australia, suggest that of the people who have internet access, 60% have a Facebook account.  The average use of Facebook is about 4 times a day and most people use it every day.  Other social media tools like Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and Trip Advisor all have significant use by Australians in all walks of life.

The simple fact is, we are an age where people expect to access information and a connection with trusted sources of that information immediately.  If it is sharing family pictures or searching for information on the weather or a place to eat, people are turning to social media to get that information.  

This is the opportunity to tap into that demand.  Smart businesses see social media as a way of connecting with their customers and potential customers in a way that has never really been an option in the past.  It is pretty obvious that people want to connect with businesses and products.  They like to see images and stories of business and products they support doing well in the marketplace.

The best social media strategies encourage clients and other people to engage with a business.  That engagement needs to lead to a recognition of the business as a 'go to' for information and ideas.  

Well, thats what I am trying to achieve with RaynerAg and I have been teaching businesses how to do this in their own social media programs.

What does surprise me is how little though people give to the things they post and share on social media.  I've seen all sorts of things from tweets that contain swear words, to nasty comments, negative observations or criticism of businesses or government policy.  It seems some people confuse their ability to share their thoughts with the the impact their thoughts might have on their businesses recognition as a 'go to' source of information and ideas.

I reckon it is very unlikely that people are going to go looking for advice or to support a product when they see a series of negative posts or comments.  

Many people think it is just common sense that you don't post negative material or comments.  Yet every day I see them on Twitter, Facebook or on other sites.  So I reckon there is a gap between common sense and what really happens!

Ideally when I am teaching businesses how to use social media as part of their brand awareness, I want them to see the excitement that comes from sharing ideas and information across a much broader range of people than they could access from traditional advertising.  I really hope they become businesses that develop a reputation for information that is trusted and useful.  More importantly I want to help businesses or individuals avoid posting something that makes me ask "Did you just tweet that?"

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.

Oct 20

A System to Provide Independent Cattle Assessments

Posted on Monday, October 20, 2014

Earlier this year I was undertaking some work in Brisbane.  While I was in town I was contacted by Angus Burnett-Smith who wanted to talk to me about cattle assessment work.  I have to admit I was pleased to be contacted, largely because it seemed like a good chance to meet someone new, and hopefully it might bring some more work towards RaynerAg!

Well I was right on both of those assumptions!  Angus is the brains and energy behind an online livestock marketing system.  In simplest terms the ClassiMate model combines independent assessment of breeding livestock with an online marketing platform for those animals.

The model has proven to be very successful with small ruminant animals, and Angus was keen to discuss with me the opportunity to extend the platform to beef cattle.

It certainly was an exciting proposition.  

There are plenty of methods used in the beef industry to describe cattle. The challenge was to draw on those to develop a system that would allow breeders to be able to list their cattle on line, and for potential buyers to view those cattle with complete confidence in the way those animals had been assessed.

I reckon it was a challenge I had to accept, and I went away and worked with several industry people who have a level of experience and industry knowledge I respect.  Between us we looked at the current industry methods, and considered what traits are most important to assess in breeding animals. 

With a lot of research, discussion and testing, I was able to report back to Angus and the ClassiMate team we had developed a system we are confident in to assess with credibility and repeatability, breeding cattle of both sexes.  

The ClassiMate assessment system assesses structural soundness; temperament; fertility and muscle.  These are the traits that are important in any breeding enterprise, and using these as the basis for selection will certainly drive the performance of any beef business.  

Now that the system has been established the role of RaynerAg will be to provide ClassiMate members with the assessment service so that they can list their animals on the website. 

RaynerAg will not be working for ClassiMate.  I'll provide an independent service (along with the other team members) that is arranged on demand as people require it.

So what happens now?  Well firstly I reckon its important to remember that assessing your animals on their physical merits won't replace the value of EBVs which describe the genetic potential of an animal.  So if you are in BreedPlan I'd encourage you to continue to monitor and record the traits required to contribute to your EBVs.  

However having the opportunity to have your animals independently assessed for their structural soundness, temperament; fertility and muscle can be incredibly beneficial.  

Assessments such as these will allow you to select out animals that are not suited to your environment; to your market specifications or are just not right for your program.  

If you are trying to market your livestock and one option is to advertise your livestock online, providing potential buyers with an independent assessment of your animals can add to your credibility. 

I reckon there will be opportunities for breeders who are looking to try and combine traditional marketing techniques with online marketing.  There would be no reason why bulls in a sale catalogue or females in a feature sale couldn't be accompanied with both their individual EBVs and a ClassiMate score.  That way you address genetic potential and the animal's physical traits at the same time.

I'm pleased I was able to work with a great team to develop this system. Naturally I hope ClassiMate see's new members that are looking to have their cattle assessed!  But I also have to be honest and say I'm pleased that a team of people I respect came together to put some ideas together to have a system in place that will aid beef producers across Australia improve their herds and hopefully move much closer to their owners goals.  

If you are interested in joining ClassiMate you can get in touch with them yourself.  As an independent assessor, my connection with ClassiMate is now purely to be on their list of cattle assessors and to ensure the system used to assess cattle into the future maintains industry relevance and credibility.  I reckon it will work and I think there will be plenty of producers who will gain a lot from both the assessments and the new marketing opportunities. 

Jul 31

How familiar are you with your obligations to ensure animals are transported safely and appropriately? Its an interesting questions to ask producers or livestock agents.  Sometimes the response I get to that question is a blank look or even a comment that its up to the truckie!  In actual fact, anyone responsible for the care and management of livestock has an obligation to know the current standards and adhere to them.

Its called the chain of obligation, and it starts with the owner of the animal and ends with the final receiver of the livestock.  Anyone along the way, be it the agent, truck driver, staff at the sale yard, feedlot, depot or processor is included in the chain. So its important you make yourself familiar with the current national standards. 

The current Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock are the basis for a national consistent framework regarding standards and responsibilities associated with ensuring welfare of animals is maintained.  

The national standards and guidelines cover alpacas; buffalo; camels, cattle, deer, emu, goats, horses, poultry, pigs, ostriches and sheep.  

There are general guidelines that apply to all animals.  Having read through these standards, I reckon they provide a logical progression for anyone who will be responsible for transporting animals.  

The general standards include recommendations for:

  • Responsibilities & planning

  • Stock Handling competency 

  • Transport vehicles and facilities for livestock

  • Pre transport selection of livestock

  • Loading, transporting and unloading livestock

  • Humane destruction

Each of these points addresses important considerations for every person who is responsible for the animal.  

This includes questions such as;  are the animals fit to load?  There are useful pointers for the suppliers of animals selecting animals and assembling them for transport as well as identifying the responsibilities for sac section of the chain of responsibility.

As well as these general standards, the document addresses the specific requirements for transporting animals of each species.  These standards cover important issues such as loading densities; transportation of pregnant animals; suitability of vehicles for different species and tim of feed or water.

Transporting animals is something that everyone involved in agriculture will have to do at some stage to other.  

Having the national standards in place means we re all working to the same standard and working to consistently achieve the best welfare standards for our animals.

I reckon its definitely essential you download a copy of the standard and become familiar with its standards and recommendations.  

Jun 26

Top Tips for Junior Judges

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2014

Junior judging competitions are one of the most important activities for agriculture.  These competitions are often the entry point for many people into their chosen agricultural industry.  It doesn't matter if that industry is cattle, sheep, poultry or alpaca!  For me, junior judging was the start of my career in agriculture and so its one form of competition I'm always very eager to support.

I reckon its important to recognise junior judging competitions offer more than simply a format to demonstrate your ability to judge and place animals or entries.  

These competitions are a fantastic way to refine your ability to make decisions, to demonstrate your capacity to present arguments or a reason behind a decision and give you a great way to improve your confidence as a public speaker.  These are all skills that are highly valuable in your career, even if you don't go on to do a lot of judging in the future.

When I do have the opportunity to judge the junior judging competitions, I try to spend some time providing competitors with some ideas and suggestions to bear in mind in future competitions.  

Over the next few months there are a huge number of junior judging competitions coming up, and I thought it might be a good time to share a few tips with potential junior judges.

Tip 1:  Practice speaking into a microphone at home!  Holding a microphone seems to distract many people.  Combined with the nervousness that is already associated with public speaking this seems to really derail some peoples presentations.  So practice speaking into a microphone, holding it close to your mouth and get comfortable with the concept of holding and moving while speaking.

Tip 2: Learn to describe the exhibit. As a judge you are being assessed on your ability to describe the exhibit, and the traits you think are important.  Don't make stuff up!  Don't use jargon, particularly if you don't really understand it.  Its much more professional to speak and describe an exhibit with correct terms.

Tip 3: Make a proper comparison.  Judging is not simply placing exhibits in a ranking order.  Judges need to be able to describe what they are looking for and why their choices are placed in the ranking the judge has chosen.  Part of that is to compare exhibits.  You must be able to say why 1st place is the best.  And you have to say why the 2nd place is there.  

Don't skip over the comparison between the entries. I reckon the worst form of comparison is to describe an entry as being "overpowered on the day!"  Ask yourself, what does that mean?  If the entry was underweight, less well grown, less muscled, poorly structured, what ever the reason for it being more lowly raked, it should be said, and not hidden in this meaningless phrase!

Tip 4: Dress Appropriately! Judging is an honour.  Its not everyday that you will be asked to make a comment on peoples hard work in breeding, preparing and exhibiting.  

To respect the effort exhibitors put in, you need to present yourself as a professional.  Your appearance indicates you care, and it illustrates you want to convey opinions which are considered and helpful.  

Dressing correctly conveys your intention to be taken seriously and respectfully.  Its hard to take seriously the opinions of someone who can't be bothered to wear clean clothes, or even to wear their clothes neatly.  If they don't care about their appearance, do they care about their opinions and comments?

So make sure you wear good clean pants (not jeans); a clean ironed shirt and for men a tie.  You should wear a clean jacket. If you're at school there's nothing wrong with the school blazer.  If you are wearing a hat, which is mainly for cattle and horse judging, it should be a wide brim and clean hat!  The black yard hat covered in mud and dung looks terrible!

Tip 5: Make your decisions & use your time to get reasons 

As a member of the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging Team we spent several weeks training before the US competitions.  One of the lessons I was taught was to make your decision swiftly.  

Generally as a judge you know pretty quickly which order you will place a class.  So make that preliminary decision and spend your time on why - that is what are the reasons behind that placing order.

If you do this it may help you be certain you've got the order correct.  It will also help you be much more confident in your preparation to answer questions or to present your reasons to the judge of the competition.  

Tip 6: Enjoy yourself! Junior judging is a great opportunity.  Don't put yourself under so much pressure that it becomes a chore or something you don't enjoy.

Judging is a skill.  Like any skill it has to be developed.  The more you practice the more confident you will be.  look for the opportunities, listen to the feedback, think about the things you would like to do better and practice those things.

The Final Tip: Look for opportunities!

If you want to develop as a judge, or you'd like to be more involved in judging in your industry, junior judging competitions can only take you so far.  If you are keen, get involved in your local show society and get to know how shows operate.  

Make contacts with the judges in your industry.  Perhaps there are opportunities to be an associate judge where you can learn and refine your skills.  Don't overlook the opportunities to learn new skills, particularly by attending industry youth activities.  Its always a work in progress, but all judges started somewhere and if you keep at it, you will find your place in the industry of your choice.

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.

Mar 28

What can you learn from the show ring?

Posted on Friday, March 28, 2014

How do you benchmark your livestock against other people?  Seedstock producers are fortunate to have Breedplan which provides breeders with a way of measuring and comparing the genetic potential of their animals through EBVs.  Without doubt EBVs provide a chance to assess genetic potential for the commercial traits essential to improving a beef enterprise.

So where does the show ring fit in todays commercial world?  As someone who has been involved in agricultural shows for over 25 years as an exhibitor, steward, judge and organiser, I think about this question a lot!

I reckon the show ring still provides plenty of learning for producers, either in showing their cattle or just from watching the events.  

Observing animals closely, as they walk around a ring, and as they stand still for judging, lets you get up close and personal to observe the physical characteristics which the animal has.  Questions like the shape and angle of feet and legs, the size of testicles, the placement of teats on the udder.  These physical features are as important as the genetic potential of the animal.  

Comparing animals of the same age and breed against each other gives you a chance to see how the animal has expressed their genetic potential when they receive the nutrition they require.  

Being able to compare your animals in an environment where you will be exposed to an outside opinion does challenge you!  But any challenge is also an opportunity.  It is a chance to see what your breed is doing, and to see if there is much variation in the breed type, as well as what your animals look like at the same age and weight as animals of other breeds.  

Its important not to underestimate the importance of networking with other breeders, and producers at a show.  The show ring remains an important publicity tool for your program and for the type of cattle you are seeking to breed.  Many producers are looking to make contact with breeders and to see how animals compare against each other.  Its part of the information gathering process many people undertake when they are looking for new genetics.

I find producers enjoy supporting their bull breeders at local, regional and state shows.  There is a degree of pride in seeing the breeder who supplies you with genetics, being prepared to display their animals and compete for recognition in a public arena.  

To me it, by exhibiting your livestock you are saying you are proud of your animals and are prepared to showcase them publicly which we all know can be challenging as you are exposed to public praise and public critique.

Generally most people will remember seeing you in the ring and remember the chats they have with you in the cattle sheds more than they will remember where you placed in the class.  This recognition and awareness can underpin your sale in coming months.

Judges at shows should be able to offer you an independent observation on your animals compared to their peers in a class.  True it is a subjective opinion.  But don't forget, people who haven't seen your animals before may notice something which you haven't really noticed, or because you see it so often, you take it for granted.  Most judges will be happy to chat after the event, so take the time to meet the judge and discuss their comments.  Its often the outside view that can help you piece together an idea which really benefits you in the long run.  

For me, the show, be it the local show or the Royal, is a chance to spend some time with people who are enthusiastic about breeding cattle and who have a vision for their business.  I look forward to being around passionate and enthusiastic people and I draw a lot of energy from them.

The show ring does give you a chance to showcase your animals, to benchmark their performance, and most importantly, it lets you mix with people who will share ideas and passions which you can use to boost yourself towards new goals.

Mar 20

Celebrating the 1st Year of RaynerAg

Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2014

In the last few weeks, I've been really busy on a number of RaynerAg tasks.  I have had a chance to visit a number of producers on farm to discuss feeding programs to best manage the drought; delivered at several drought workshops; pregnancy tested over 1,040 cows and even delivered some social media training as part of seniors week!

With all thats has been happening, its exciting to also realise that RaynerAg has now been operating for 12 months.  I reckon I am incredibly fortunate.  I have been so supported by producers who have been prepared to pay me to provide them with ideas, advice and opinions which can have a significant impact on their businesses.  I've also been supported by many organisations ranging from Government Departments through to Agri-buisnesses who have asked me to develop and deliver staff training and development.  

When I left the NSW DPI after a 17 year career as a District Livestock Officer (Beef Products) there was no way I could have guessed what the year ahead would bring me.  I knew I wanted to build a business which would allow me to do what I am passionate about, which is to help other people operate their agricultural businesses more effectively and more profitably.

Establishing a new business providing advice and training has been a challenge. Paying for advice to aid livestock production is a new concept in the NSW beef industry.  However I have found many producers are willing to pay for advice and ideas which can be tailored and focussed to their specific needs.  

I have been fortunate in developing strong relationships with clients from across NSW, Queensland and South Australia.  The people I am working with are enthusiastic about their businesses and determined to achieve the goals they are setting for themselves and for their businesses.

Looking back I didn't expect I would have included overseas work in my first year.  Last year I was able to travel to Malaysia to work with MLA with the developing goat market and to assist in training farmers in livestock handling under the ESCAS program.  

The chance to work in another country was incredibly valuable in helping me appreciate our traceability systems as well as the seeing our markets from the international clients view.  I reckon I am better placed to discuss the impact on markets or why traceability systems are so vital having seen whats happening in the market place.

The past year has also been a great year for learning new skills.  I've enjoyed writing a weekly blog for the web site.  I wasn't too sure about writing a blog when I first started, but I do enjoy sharing my observations and I appreciate the regular feedback many people send me on things I've written.  

Learning to become a pregnancy tester was a new skill. Undertaking the course and learning the skill to be an accurate tester was something I wanted to do, so I could offer a better level of advice and service for producers.  Now with over 1,000 cows tested and more booked in, I'm better positioned to help the producers I work with, manage issues such as fertility and stocking rate during this drought.

I reckon the second year for RaynerAg is going to be just as exciting and rewarding.  I am talking with producers in Tasmania and South Australia about delivering workshops on better bull buying and live animal assessment.  I'm also developing a one day course for people wishing to improve their skills to undertake the role of stewards at their local agricultural show.

I'm looking forward to working with a number of bull breeders in NSW and Queensland to assess the structure of their bulls and to use that information to provide their clients with enhanced information on each bull.

While these are exciting plans, I'm just as excited about the continuing work I am doing with individual producers.  I really do enjoy being on a farm discussing the best way to achieve outcomes and to see the results as plans come together.

I do reckon I'm incredibly fortunate.  I love my job and I enjoy working with so many people passionate about their industry and about agriculture.  I am looking forward to continuing to provide a professional, independent and technically based advisory service to agriculture.  Thank you for your support over the past 12 months, and I hope I can offer you the service you and your business are looking for into the future.


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