YASS district grazier Matt Doyle is a great believer in the benefits of farmer education – specifically training which helps create more profitable enterprises and reduces risk.
Risk management has played a critical role in Mr Doyle’s work on his property, “Glenryan”, between Yass and Boorowa, for several years now – and he has aimed to tackle risk on two fronts.
“There are two big things we have to deal with in farming – market risk and seasonal risk,” Mr Doyle said.
“I have different strategies to deal with both.
“Being profitable and successful in farming is all about being a good risk manager.”
Mr Doyle runs up to 1000 head of cattle across his 1320-hectare property.
About 500 head consist of his own trade cattle while the remainder are Angus cows on agistment, which assists with the operation’s cash flow.
Mr Doyle farms in partnership with his wife Maree and his parents Peter and Geraldine.
He said in the past four years he had implemented a marketing program for his trade cattle, which he believed had successfully helped manage risk and added profit to the business.
“We sell by margin trading with our cattle – each time we sell an animal, we allocate dollars to our profit amount, we allocate dollars to our next purchase, and we also allocate dollars to variable and overhead costs,” he said.
He implemented the program after attending a KLR Marketing course in Wagga Wagga about four years ago.
“All the training we have done with KLR Marketing has really helped us through this system,” he said.
He became involved in the KLR Marketing program after realising he needed to manage risk when going into livestock trading.
“We decided to adopt that as our risk management strategy, and it has helped us to make a profit every year – it has been very successful,” he said.
“I’ve been doing this for four years, and in that time we have seen the market go back and forth from red hot, to dead, and to red hot again.
“Traditionally you would buy weaner steers at this time of year, hoping you would get a good spring, and hoping the market holds up.”
He said, however, this was not always the case, as both seasons and markets could be variable.
By margin trading, the emphasis was not so much on how well the cattle market was performing, but about “selling and buying”.
“It is all about the margins, rather than the absolute values,” he said.
“When the market is low, you might only get $700 for your steers, but then you can go back to replace them for just $400.
“I usually trade like-for-like so if I sell steers, I buy steers back, and the same with heifers, but that can change as opportunities present themselves.”
In addition to addressing market risk management, Mr Doyle has implemented steps with regard to seasonal risk management thanks to holistic grazing programs.
“I’ve done a fair bit of farm education in order to learn the skills of using a grazing chart,” he said.
Training programs such as Grazing for Profit had saved his business a lot of money, he said, particularly with supplementary feeding costs.
He said he had been using holistic grazing management on his property at varying degrees for about the past seven years.
“At the moment I’m doing a course to hone my skills with the grazing chart, and understanding more about how all the calculations work.
“The idea behind the grazing chart is to look at how much feed you have and how much rain you have.
He said when average rainfall reduced, he would reduce his stock numbers and carrying capacity to an appropriate level given the conditions.
“Before, we weren’t making enough money because of the amount we were spending on supplementary feeding, so something had to change,” he said of the decision to implement holistic grazing management on the property.
Mr Doyle said the KLR Marketing program and holistic grazing management worked hand-in-hand with each other, and had proved extremely valuable when it came to managing risk in the market and the seasons, and ultimately allowed for a more efficient and profitable grazing operation.
Managing risk paying off
MATT Doyle’s property “Glenryan” has received about 210 millimetres since early February, which has improved the season remarkably from a hot, dry summer.
Back then, stocking rates on the property had been reduced to about 40 per cent of overall capacity.
Today, numbers are back to 100pc.
This reduction in stocking rates reflects Mr Doyle’s implementation of holistic grazing management.
“We were able to start restocking, while there were still drought-affected areas, because we had looked after our country,” Mr Doyle said.
“Glenryan”, near Yass, covers 1320 hectares of undulating, granite-based soil types – 60pc of the property consists of native pastures, while 40pc is improved with phalaris, cocksfoot, ryegrass and fescues.
Mr Doyle said training – such as holistic grazing management, low-stress stock handling, or KLR Marketing – had formed an important part of his farming operations in the past seven years.
“We try to budget each year for training,” he said.
“In the corporate world, training is expected as part of the job, and I think a lot of people in rural Australia would benefit from this as there is some very good training available in the industry.
“In this day and age, we need to have strategies to manage risk.”