Throughout my time in Australia I have been overwhelmed with how welcoming everyone has been.
I am extremely thankful to Brown & Co and Rural Directions for giving me this opportunity to see how the agricultural sector operates in Australia, writes George Lane.
One of the first things that I was made aware of whilst in Australia was the 80:20 rule, whereby 80% of agriculture in Australia is similar to that in the UK, but the final 20% is vastly different.
It has been an amazing experience to be able to see how these differences affect and change the way in which farmers in Australia not only think, but how their businesses operate on a day to day basis.
Being able to see first hand how such adverse weather conditions have affected farmers here and in turn how they mitigated these challenges has been extremely interesting, being from the way that they establish crops through direct drilling to preserve soil moisture, which can mean increase in yield of 0.5t/Ha compared to conventional establishment systems, in areas with an average wheat yield of 2.5t/Ha, which is a considerable uplift in yield.
Through to livestock farmers looking at not putting their ewes into lamb for a year to conserve energy in times of drought where food is sparse.
These kind of challenges and how they overcome them have been fascinating to see.
For myself, the most interesting part of this journey was being able to be part of advisory meetings between farmers and their consultant from rural Directions and seeing how they approach business and how open they are to new ideas, along with not being afraid to take outside advice and act upon it.
More than once during advisory board meetings farmers have been open to the idea of selling up their current farm and moving to areas where they can reduce the risk of drought to their business along with moving to new areas where the land can offer a better return, something that I have not really experiences as a consultant here in the UK.
I suppose this is down to the fact that such adverse weather conditions ultimately dictate success or failure each year of the business, along with the vast amount of land available within Australia.
Pairing this with Australia’s relatively new history, meaning that there is not the relationship with the land that might be apparent in more historical countries such as the U.K.
This means that people are more open minded to moving areas and even countries to farm so that it provides them with a more profitable business and with more opportunities in the future.
The use of benchmarking throughout Australian agriculture was brilliant to see, the use of this tool has helped many Australian farmers highlight areas of their business that needed improving, be it from chemical costs through to machinery costs.
With the information from benchmarking, farmers where able to address areas high costs and improve efficiency, something that is vital for all businesses to be successful, particularly in a country where farmers do not receive subsidies.
This is something I am looking forward to being involved with back in the U.K. with Brown & Co being one of the facilitators across the northern and eastern regions for the AHDB’s new benchmarking tool, Farmbench.
This will offer the farmers in these regions the opportunity to get involved with not only benchmarking, but also knowledge sharing to drive their business forward as we go forward through the uncertainty of Brexit and the potential loss of subsidies.