The Mackinnon Project is offering the following consultancy packages. If you are interested and would like more information on what is included and the cost, please contact:
Leah Tyrell on 0417 038 758 or 02 9731 2233
Whole Farm Planning
Is this package for me?
Wondering how your farm is performing, both physically and financially? What about the strengths of your farm operations and areas you could improve?
The ‘Whole Farm Planning’ package will help develop or refine farm maps, calculate potential carrying capacity of different land classes, and identify the best areas for increasing production or protection. The package will help compile a pasture development and management plan that allows you to manage your land productivity but within its capability to protect your environmental resources.
A whole farm financial analysis and interpretation, two on-farm consultations and a farm development and management plan
Is this package for me?
Not sure how your flock compares to others? A wether trial will help answer this question. Wether trials are used to compare flocks’ performances or to compare bloodlines. Wether comparisons bring together teams of wethers which are managed and fed under the same conditions for two years, with productivity measurements recorded and compared.
The aims of a wether trial are to:
- Compare traits of commercial importance,
- Increase productivity,
- Identify superior bloodlines,
- Allow producers to compare their flock to other flocks, and
- Bring producers together to exchange ideas.
The ‘Wether Trial’ package includes advice on how to get started and run a wether trial. Help will be given with record collecting and collating and interpretation of results at the end of the trial.
Four to five farm visits over 24 months, wool quality testing, worm egg counts, three brief reports after each farm visits and one comprehensive report at the conclusion of the trial.
Productive Weaner Management and Nutrition
Is this package for me?
Merino weaners are a difficult group of sheep to manage. In a survey of woolgrowers in Western Victoria, nearly half of producers considered feeding weaners the most important issue of weaner management. More than one quarter said that ‘getting weaner feeding right and reaching growth targets’ was their primary concern. You are not alone if your Merino weaners give you headaches!
So what does good weaner management actually mean?
For Merino weaners, the aim is to have them grow steadily with minimal losses, to cut sound wool and for the ewe weaners be sufficiently grown to have acceptable pregnancy rates when they enter the ewe mob as maidens.
The 'Productive Weaner Management and Nutrition’ package is designed to benchmark and monitor the performance of your weaners, and design a plan for successfully managing the young sheep on your farm. This package will also identify critical rams and ewe issues and teach you about the essentials of good weaner nutrition and monitoring.
Three farm visits over 12 months to discuss weaner management, weigh weaners and assess nutrition and performance, worm egg counts, feed tests and a weaner management plan, with recommendations for nutrition, parasite control and monitoring.
Better Grazing Management
Is this package for me?
Do you want to grow more pasture? Are you concerned about how to rebuild pasture productivity after a difficult season? And ever wondered if you can reduce your reliance on herbicides and boost productivity at the same time? Good grazing management is vital to ensuring desirable pasture species persist and thrive, which drives livestock production and in turn your farm’s profitability.
The ‘Better Grazing Management’ package includes a plan to identify grazing management strategies that improve pasture composition, growth and persistence, will less reliance on herbicides and re-sowing.
Preparation of a grazing plan, use of GPS/farm map software and three on-farm consultations.
Strategic Worm Control
Is this package for me?
Are worms costing your farm enterprise year after year? Worms cost the Australian sheep industry an estimated $369 million per annum, more than any other sheep health issue. Worms resistant to drench classes is becoming a more significant issue which means that the estimated cost of internal parasites is likely to increase. However, this issue can be managed with strategic management of worms.
The ‘Strategic Worm Control’ package includes a Worm Egg Count Reduction Test (‘drench resistance test’) and worm egg count monitoring of ewes and weaners at strategic times during the year. A written report will be provided after your drench resistance test and at the completion of the 12 months of monitoring.
Information package, worm egg count reduction test, worm egg counts, two to three farm visits over 12 months and comprehensive reports.
Improving Sheep Reproductive Performance
Is this package for me?
Are you disappointed with your weaning percentage? The number of lambs weaned is one of the main profitability drivers in both prime lamb and Merino enterprises. Ram and ewe fertility need to be optimal for firstly, high conception rates and secondly, neonatal lamb survival.
The ‘Improving Sheep Reproduction Performance’ package includes a physical examination and assessment of rams and ewes pre-mating, pasture assessments and investigation of neonatal lamb deaths. Advice on a nutritional plan for the ewes and the status of the ram team will be given, plus advice on the cause of neonatal lamb deaths and how to minimise these in the future.
Two farm visits in 12 months, post mortems and a comprehensive report.
Improving Beef Cattle Reproductive Performance
Is this package for me?
Are you disappointed with the reproductive efficiency of your beef herd? In order to ensure maximal profitability of a beef enterprise, breeding females should produce a minimum of one calf every 365 days. The calving percentage of your mature cow herd should be in excess of 96% with an 8 week joining period, and 85% in heifers with a 5-6 week joining period.
Complex interactions between on farm management, fertility, genetics, nutrition and disease status of all breeding animals influences the ability to achieve this target.
The ‘Improving Beef Cattle Reproduction Performance’ package will benchmark the current performance of your herd, set attainable targets, define how to achieve these targets and monitor your progress throughout the year. The package includes four visits throughout the year which focus on: historical records, pasture and soil assessment and nutrition and breeding assessment of bulls and cows.
Four farm visits over a 12 month period and comprehensive reports.
Trace element assessment (cattle or sheep)
Is this package for me?
Selenium, cobalt and copper are common trace elements, which production animals may be deficient in. It is difficult to determine if trace element deficiencies are a problem unless animals are significantly deficient. In regions where marginal deficiencies are present, poor or sub-optimal growth in weaners is generally the most common sign. In a recent study conducted by the Mackinnon Project, responses to selenium supplementation in weaner cattle were on average a 3 to 20 kg/head increase in growth rate, which generated a benefit cost ratio between 3:1 and 18:1.
The ‘Trace Element Assessment’ package includes a response trial, which is simple and cost effective way to determine if stock will benefit from trace element supplementation. Animals which do not have a deficiency, will have no growth response to supplementation. However, if a marginal or significant deficiency is present, there may be a 2 kg or more difference in bodyweight between treated and untreated animals.
Two farm visits over six months, which includes selection/weighing and treatment of weaners, full trace element blood screen and a summary report at the end.
The Mackinnon Project offers a whole farm consultancy service to livestock producers throughout southern Australia. This recognises that the financial sustainability of the farm is paramount. We are also aware that changes to one area of management can have an (often unforseen) impact on other aspects of farm management
We start by examining the financial situation of a farm, benchmarking this relative to similar operations. From this we can then develop a comprehensive plan for increasing the profitability of a sheep or beef enterprise.
Areas covered include:
- Farm financial analysis and benchmarking
- Matching pasture availability with feed demand
- Farm management calendar
- Identifying the most profitable sheep and cattle
- Effective and profitable animal health programs
- Profitable wool marketing programs
- Labour efficiency
Farm Financial Analysis And Benchmarking
The first step in improving the profitability of any business is to recognise where you, and your competitors, are presently at. Examining and benchmarking your business allows you to identify your strengths and weakness, then identify areas where practices may be improved (or bad practices eliminated).
The farm financial analysis package
This examines income and costs in detail, then benchmarks these against similar farms. We use a combination of gross margin analysis, examining variable and overhead costs, debt structure and net farm income to develop our recommendations.
The overall aim is to identify farm practices that will increase output, while at the same time reduce the cost of production of wool or meat per hectare.
How it works
Improving the productivity of fixed resources (ie. owner-labour & land) decreases the total cost of production per unit produced, as the capital costs are distributed over more units of product.
Similarly, increasing the amount of product from each enterprise will reduce the total cost per unit as the overhead (fixed) costs are divided into more product units.
These two ways of reducing cost of production (per unit) are where we advise you to concentrate your management efforts. Reducing variable (direct) costs has little effect upon farm profitability. In fact, on many profitable farms these variable costs (inputs) will actually increase.
Matching Pasture Availability with Feed Demand
Your farm grows pasture - nothing else.
Matching feed demand with supply optimises feed utilisation. This lowers farm costs, by decreasing supplementary feeding, and allows increased production through increased stock numbers or an increased amount of product produced.
How to do it
This involves matching time of lambing (or calving) and lactation to the period with highest feed availability, and minimising stock numbers during periods of slow pasture growth.
Generally, time of lambing can be changed without increased costs or adverse cash flows to the farm, but more stock will be needed to capture increased profits.
Changing time of calving can effect cash flow, and so this change must be managed carefully.
Improved grazing management may also increase pasture and livestock productivity and income. Different plant species require different grazing pressures and timing. Improvements in grazing management generally involve little cost and do not require expensive pasture or paddock renovation.
How we help
The Mackinnon Project has based its approach to farm management on matching the demands of various classes of stock with the seasonal production of your pastures.
We start by training our clients in the measurement of available pasture, classifying stock according to their metabolic demands and condition scoring. This is the 'hands-on' part of our work, and in the first couple of years can require quite intensive involvement. Nevertheless, most clients find this a most profitable and fulfilling introduction to the Mackinnon Project.
Farm Management Calendar
This is an integral part of our initial consultancy service. The reasoning behind the timing of procedures is thoroughly explained. We also make sure that you can accurately assess condition score, weigh young animals, assess their feed requirements and measure pasture availability. At this stage a number of myths are dispelled.
Pasture production can be increased by the optimum use of fertilisers, targeted use of herbicides and improved grazing management.
Measuring pasture, matching feed demand with class of stock and then stocking paddocks accordingly quickly leads to an increase of 10-20% in stock numbers - without additional supplementary feed. The targeted use of fertiliser and herbicides can lead to further increases in stock numbers, based on sustainable and more profitable pastures.
Complete pasture renovation of run down paddocks is a much later step - we usually try a number of other pasture improvement techniques before a renovation program. This is because the costs involved in a complete pasture renovation are hard to justify with current commodity prices.
The initial improvements we aim for are to increase pasture quantity and quality, then increase stock (and product) numbers without increasing grazing pressure or supplementary feeding. However, as well as increasing the amount of product sold we have to ensure you capture all possible premiums, and don't lose on discounts.
Identifying the Most Profitable Animals
Breeding programs based on objective measurements can lead to large increases in your net profits.
For wool production this means reducing the fibre diameter of the clip and reducing the amount of tender wool.
Assessing the genotype of your sheep is easily done at the same time as your pastures and stocking rate are being improved.
First step is an analysis of your flock history, a wool clip analysis and possibly on-farm wether trials or progeny testing. We can help you to benchmark the performance of your sheep, and may recommend new bloodlines for you to use.
As for all our services, involvement can initally be be very hands-on; we can provide help with wool sampling, measurement or data analysis.
On rare occasions-only for linked benchmarking or breeding your own rams-we suggest using artificial breeding methods. Remember that this technology adds nothing in itself - we will teach you when and how to use it.
For meat production systems improved genotype ensures the efficient conversion of pasture to quality meat.
Effective and Profitable Animal Health Programs
Animal health programs are integral to avoiding losses, not only from deaths but mainly from subclinical (inapparent) conditions. These losses are typically seen as ill-thrift among weaners and young breeding stock. Our consultants can design an animal health strategy for each enterprise on your farm. These aim to optimise the productivity and heatlh of your stock.They include vaccination programs, the control of worms, flies and lice (with minimal selection for resistance and acceptable chemical residues), footrot eradication and the control of Johne's disease.
An over-arching aim is to get the grazing management and profitability of the farm right.
Importantly, we are often able to save our clients considerable amounts of money by making sure they don't implement programs that may have considerable cost, but give no direct or cost-effective benefits. These include such things as vaccination for cheesy gland, scanning to find single- and twin-bearing ewes (even when feed prices are low), pregnancy testing cows a week before sale or using blocks as costly and ineffective feed supplements.
Profitable Wool Marketing
Do you know how your wool sells relative to other producers?
Are you capturing the best prices paid on a given day relative to the current market indicator?
A key part of assessing current practices is a Wool Clip Analysis. This determines the returns from different wool lines and compares these to an appropriate benchmark.
How is information from a clip analysis used?
Using current information, recommendations can be made about changes to skirting practices, wool lotting and the use of additional measurements to maximise wool prices.
As part of the clip analysis, we also assist clients with setting reserve prices for particular sales. This 'sale-pricing' is quite distinct from calculating the price that must be received to cover cost-of-production, interest etc.
Clients generally find our price reserves are much more aggressive than most wool brokers. While it may take a couple more sales to sell all lines, it does increase the prices received and the value of your clip.
This is quite different to 'sale pricing'. It is approached by knowing your cost of production and living costs, then identifying the appropriate amount of wool to sell through futures, forward markets, brokerage houses or the spot auction system.
We use all of the above information - business analysis, plans for pasture, kids schooling, etc - to determine the cost of production or the cost of living. These values are then used to set the value and amount of wool to sell (or maybe not to sell).
With some clients we also do a 'reverse analysis'; determine their total cost of living, then divide this by the available hectares or number of stock. Unfortunately, this sometimes reveals that a realistic option may be to exit farming while they still retain reasonable equity.