Peter and Fiona Musson's Story

Farm analysis proves valuable

South-western Victoria dairy farmers Peter and Fiona Musson’s focus on business analysis has helped their farm remain a consistent high performer in their region. 

The couple who milk 800 cows from a 320 hectare milking area at Macarthur are part of the Dairy Farm Monitor Project (DFMP) which offers Victorian farmers the opportunity to compare their performance against other farms, and identify areas for improvement.

Their business has consistently been in the top 25 % of DFMP farms for return on assets during the seven years they have been involved.

Mr Musson said that the DFMP was a key part of the business planning and they consider this annual comparison invaluable as they look to continually improve.

The business performance reports from DFMP allow the Mussons to compare costs both over time and against other farms and confirms decisions around such items as feed expenses, labour and animal health.

“It’s good for benchmarking against other farmers in your area just to see where you are at otherwise you really are in the dark a bit.

“It very clearly highlights your strengths and weakness and what you need to work on. If you take our labour results we have a very effective production per labour unit than other farms which is pleasing but that is probably right because we pay a bit more overall than others.”

Mr Musson said using the tool to help understand the business was particularly useful if there was a drop in milk price.

“In tight years you need to know what your budget is say for feed and how much certain areas of your business are costing monthly. It helps you to be proactive and realistic about the situation ahead.”

The couple have worked hard to get where they are today after meeting in England. They moved to Australia in 1995 after Mr Musson’s father-in-law offered to buy a dairy farm as part of his pension that they cold lease from him at a commercial rate.

The pension company owns most of the land and some additional land has been bought through it and the Mussons’ have subsequently bought some shares in the company and land in their own right.

This system has meant they were required to focus on good business planning.

“For us it’s about meeting those financial goals. Personally I’m not worried about some of those finer points such as what grass variety to use or what bulls people use for AI, I’m more worried about the big picture.”

“It’s pleasing to know how we stack up especially when we look back to say 15 years ago and we were not so sure.”

Mr Musson said he hoped farmers would take the opportunity to use the the new farm business management tool DairyBase.

“We are happy to share our information for analysis. I hope farmers will use it to increase their knowledge by comparing themselves with farms in their own regions because it can make a big difference.”