Case Studies

DairyBase gets thumbs up from farmer

DairyBase is a quick, easy and essential tool for farm businesses pushing for profit says northern New South Wales dairy farmer David Binney.

A new tool developed by DairyAustralia, DairyBase is a secure, web-based tool that enables dairy farmers to measure and compare their farm business.

After entering their farm data, farmers can then create confidential and comprehensive farm reports to help them understand the overall financial performance of their farm.

Mr Binney milks 350 cows on 100 hectares at Kyogle. He said DairyBase enables farmers to quickly assess all the aspects of their businesses so they can start making decisions to help their bottom line.

“It took me 45 minutes to an hour to input all the information. All I needed was the yearly financials from the accountant and a 12 month summary from my processor and then you are provided instantly with the analysis on your farm.”

“I have done other financial analysis programs before but what I liked about DairyBase was how easy it was to input the data and then get the analysis.”

Mr Binney said DairyBase calculates all the key performance indicators that are essential for decision making, such as around feedbase, labour and the herd.

“It very quickly captures that key information to give you areas that you need to focus on and you can then make changes if you wish to do so.”

Mr Binney said he had compared the results of his low-cost pasture based farm with others in his region through DairyBase and was happy with how he stacked up.

“It shows we are heading in the right direction and that gives us confidence in our decision-making.”

Released in June, DairyBase is of great benefit to dairy farmers who want to understand how the physical and financial aspects of their business are related to improve business performance. All individual farm data remains confidential to the farm business owner.

DairyBase helps farmers to:

  • Compare their own farm business over time
  • Identify opportunities to drive profit and reduce risk
  • Make more informed business decisions
  • Generate comparisons according to farm size, region and production system
  • Create annual reports and forecasts

 

DairyBase: Take your farm business performance to the next level

DairyBase is an essential and easy-to-use tool if you want to take your dairy farm’s business performance to the next level says Victorian dairy farmer Benn Thexton.

Developed by Dairy Australia, DairyBase is a secure online tool that enables dairy farmers to measure and compare their farm business over time.

After entering their farm data into DairyBase, farmers can create confidential and comprehensive farm reports to help them understand the overall farm financial performance.

“The advantages of using DairyBase is that you get to know where your business is sitting and where it sits in terms of others and it shows you where you need to improve.”

“It’s quite simple to enter your data if you have the information - the reports come back instantly and has a lot of graphics – it’s always better looking at a picture rather than just numbers.”

An award-winning farmer based at Gormandale, Mr Thexton milks 300 cows on an effective milking area of 86 hectares.

Farm business performance has been a strong focus for his business since he and wife Peta first took on his parent’s farm eight years ago. Since then cow numbers have increased from 220 and business decisions are considered each year according to the milk price, weather conditions and feed on hand.

By analysing the business year-to-year and comparing with other farms, continual improvements have been made – a process that has now been made easier by DairyBase, he said.

“Our focus is pretty simple and that is not to lose money and we have a very good idea of where we sit after benchmarking for the last seven or eight years. We look at Return on Investment as the overall indicator.”

Farmers stand to benefit by using DairyBase for their own financial analysis by comparing performance with other farms, he said.

“We never look at the averages - we look at the top 25 percent and we are looking at how we compare within our district and also Australia-wide. If we are not up there then we can pinpoint the reasons why.”

“We’re not getting those 10% improvements like when we started of course, it’s just tweaking now, but for example this year fodder production and silage were identified as areas of focus and they have been addressed. There are always things you can pick up on with analysis.”

Mr Thexton said he was always looking for new ways to advance the profitability of his farm through new technologies, research and development such as different cropping programs or using new pastures species.

“With DairyBase you can see how these new approaches work and track the improvements. We look at how these approaches will affect other parts of the business before we do it. We don’t do partial budgets, we do full budgets to show what the returns will be.”

“DairyBase is really worthwhile and if you can’t do it yourself then get someone else to help you.”

 

DairyBase will help lift industry business skills

The online farm business management tool DairyBase can play a key role in lifting business skills in the dairy industry says western Victorian dairy farmer Mark Billing.

Mr Billing and his wife Sam milk 450 cows on 240 hectares near Colac. The couple have always had a business focus monitoring expenditure on their operation and measuring the value from the dollars they spend.

A host of a recent dairy farmer discussion group Mr Billing’s discussion focused on introducing DairyBase to 45 farmers and he hopes more farmers around Australia will get to grips with their farm business management by using DairyBase.

“It’s true what they say – you can’t manage it until you measure it. I think DairyBase will play a huge role in the industry. Quite simply it helps farmers figure out what makes their business tick.

“It’s also fairly easy-to-use and intuitive with pop-ups to guide you when you are entering your data.”

Developed by Dairy Australia, DairyBase is a secure online tool that enables dairy farmers to measure and compare their farm business over time.

After entering their farm data into DairyBase, farmers can create confidential and comprehensive farm reports to help them understand the overall farm business performance.

Mr Billing said by using DairyBase farmers could calculate their Cost of Production which he views as crucial.

“Whether it’s a good or bad figure I think people should know their Cost of Production because when you know that you know your business and you can make the required changes.

“For us we know what our Cost of Production is and that means when the milk price is announced at the start of the year we know what our profit margins will be.”

DairyBase can help to answer a lot of questions about a farm business, he said.

“Realistically you need to know your business and if are you maximising the money you’ve invested.

“If you know your business you can calculate what the effect will be if the milk price goes from $5.60 to $4.60, how you will fare in the short term and how that might change things for your business in the long-term.”

In the past farm business analysis had highlighted key areas of focus for the Billing’s operation including lowering the amount of bought in feed, growing more grass and getting more effective value from staff.

“But it’s also about looking at spending the money correctly and at the right time of the year to maximise your investment.”

Mr Billing encouraged farmers to sign-up to DairyBase and take control of their farm businesses.

“Once the farm data is entered it’s about what they can do to get value out of the analysis. People can look within their companies or consultants. Fonterra has made a big effort to train all the regional development managers in DairyBase and I think that is great support from the company,” he said.

“And with DairyBase the more people on it the more powerful it will become.”

 

Farmer: Decision-making easier with DairyBase

 

 

When it comes to making decisions for his dairy business, young farmer Brody Kennedy doesn’t like to rely on guesswork.

The 29-year-old from Forge Creek in East Gippsland likes to crunch as many numbers as he can before he makes strategic  calls around the farm – so he is excited about what DairyBase can bring to his decision making process.

DairyBase, a web-based tool developed by Dairy Australia, allows farmers to measure and compare their farm business performance over time.

For Mr Kennedy, having a detailed look at what other dairy farmers are doing and comparing it to his own situation is critical for his ability to steer his business in the right direction.

“It’s having other people’s information without having to probe into their business. You can just look at what people tend to do in a particular year or in a particular circumstance.

“It could really help us to see if we are trying to be a little too left field or if we are on the right track.”

Having only been dairy farming for five years and running a 320 hectare farm over two properties with two dairies, Mr Kennedy continually seeks information on how to improve his farm business.

For him, DairyBase is the latest example of how the dairy industry is willing to share information for the greater good.

“It’s just having that extra information that you wouldn’t have in any other style of business,” he said.

“We all help each other to succeed.  The stronger your next door neighbour is, the stronger you will be, because it will be a stronger industry.”

Mr Kennedy believes that DairyBase will be a much larger scale version of herd testing, which has used long-term data collection to improve the genetic base of Australian dairy cows.

“It’s a similar concept to herd testing, which has got to the point where they can really benchmark a lot of things, so they can have confidence in making a call,” he said.

“The same thing will happen in the dairy business side of things if we treat DairyBase the same way as herd testing has been done.

“Hopefully in 10 years’ time we will have some very strong data in profitability, sustainability and the environment - all those areas. And it can all come from something like DairyBase.”

The potential for DairyBase to fast-track the development of younger farmers and employees is another area that has Mr Kennedy excited.

He sees easy access to data as a key to helping build skills and decision making abilities around the farm.

“It could be a huge knowledge base that could help younger people be a lot more confident with their decision making.”

Mr Kennedy’s own development has been aided by mentors within the industry, but he thinks if DairyBase had been available when he started out, his farming education would have been dramatically accelerated.

“I did it all through trial and error and a couple of mentors, but if you could tie in DairyBase with a mentor, well that could be a big thing for the dairy industry,” he said.

“We want to invest in the people who work for us, so they have the knowledge to help them make good decisions.

“With DairyBase our employees can ask questions, I can ask questions – and the actual facts will be there to help us make the right decisions.”

Caption: Forge Creek dairy farmer Brody Kennedy is excited about DairyBase.

 

Getting organised with DairyBase

When Ken Kimber says DairyBase is going to help him better run his 1200 cow dairy farm, other dairy farmers should take notice.

The Bega farmer is an accountant by trade and has been on a quest to improve his farm business book-keeping for almost 40 years.

He reckons DairyBase will finally offer him the comparative analysis he has always wanted – and he can’t wait to start inputting his numbers into the system.

“I’m really looking forward to getting properly organised after 38 years in the industry,” Mr Kimber joked.

“I’ve never got it right - and I used to be an accountant - so I’m quite embarrassed to say that. This will give me the basis I’m looking for.”

DairyBase, which is an online tool developed by Dairy Australia, allows farmers to measure and compare their performance over time.

Mr Kimber knows the system better than most, having been a board member of the Australian Dairy Conference, which helped Dairy Australia fine-tune the program to ensure it was ready to help farmers improve their business performance.

Now with it up and running, he is excited to see what it can deliver for himself and other dairy farmers.   

Mr Kimber believes being able to calculate the actual cost to production means farmers will be able to improve financial decision-making around the farm.

That means smarter farming and a better chance to profit in good seasons and limit the damage in poor years.

“Another good thing about DairyBase is that it does the calculations for you,” he said.

“It takes your figures as you enter them and - in front of your eyes - gives you the calculation of costs per kilo of milk solids, costs per cow, costs per hectare and other options.

“It’s pretty sweet the way it does it. It’s quite amazing actually.”

With a larger than average farm size, Mr Kember said DairyBase’s ability to benchmark against other farms is of less interest to him than comparing his own farm performance from year to year.

“It’s hard for me to find farms that are exactly the same, although this system will allow you to select farms on the basis of similar cow numbers or irrigation systems or in a similar district,” he said.

“In that way you will be able to select what you are comparing against to make it a meaningful comparison.”

The 67-year-old, who runs the 1050 acre family farm with his two sons and a son-in-law, said young farmers in particular would be able to benefit from using DairyBase.

“Certainly, if I was just coming into the industry I’d be looking for all these figures to see if my costs are way out of line and if they are, to see how other farmers are doing it,” he said.

Mr Kimber said he had improved his own business by talking to good farmers in his district, almost all of whom were willing to share their knowledge and experience. He believes DairyBase will extend that pool of local knowledge to a nationwide level.

“I think it’s going to be a great tool for the farmers, but also for the industry,” he said.

“I’m a great believer in it … it’s really exciting”


Nick and Simone Renyard
'Planning with DairyBase'

DairyBase is a free online tool that will help dairy farmers to:

  • Compare their own farm business over time
  • Create annual reports and forecasts
  • Identify opportunities to drive profit and reduce risk
  • Make more informed business decisions
  • Generate comparative analysis according to farm size, region and production system

For more information go to www.dairybase.com.au