Friday, July 8, 2022

A culture of best practice

Striving for excellence in all areas of the farming business is important to Simon and Josi Beamish.

The couple consider themselves caretakers of a long-term family legacy and have encouraged buy-in into their culture from every member of the Awapai team.

“Taking a really balanced approach to farming has always been an important part of the business but it’s more of a focus today than ever,” says Simon. “We’ve identified a whole range of components of the farm business – from the obvious ones like grazing and livestock management to the slightly more obscure areas like task management and communication – that we’re working on and all trying to get on the same page.”

The Beamishes have a detailed business plan, reviewed and updated regularly. The plan includes over-arching production and financial goals, performance targets and checkpoints which contribute to reaching these overall goals, as well as strategies for achieving the individual targets and checkpoints.

They also have an annual business-related theme. Last year it was “Excellence”, this year it is “The Awapai Way”.

“This year’s theme is about getting the most out of our farm resources,” Simon says. “To do it you need to take a balanced approach and manage all the variables – land, livestock, staff, the environment etc. We’re looking at industry best-practice and comparing it with what is happening on Awapai and aiming to create the best possible outcomes for the family business, our staff and the farm itself.”

Their background document includes a checklist detailing a range of individual areas of the farm business with associated key performance criteria. For example, “Grazing Management” is broken down as follows:

  • Outcome(s) – hitting LWG targets, improved breeding performance, improved job satisfaction
  •  Tail-end management, more regular drafting, sheep and cattle mobs always high priority
  •  Grazing management is under our control and the biggest driver of profitability that we can control
  •  Continual team visual evaluation and discussion of grazing management within each livestock enterprise to maximise opportunities within the farming system.

 

Similarly, the “Stock Management” performance criteria are detailed as follows:

  •  Clean musters (do it once, do it right)
  •  Plan stock movements
  •  Dog control e.g. heading dogs on cattle (huntaways on trailer – try to make the cattle walk)
  •  Dead – pick up
  •  Poor or sick sheep – deal with it immediately – animal welfare is paramount in all parts of the business.

 

Other areas of focus include health and safety, task management, plant and machinery, repairs and maintenance, people management and administration.

Simon believes the farm business theme and supporting documents have led to improved staff discussions and monthly reporting. While pleased with the way the systems approach has worked on Awapai, he’s quick to point out that similar strategies have been employed in non-farm, process-orientated (e.g. factory-type) businesses for years.

“We’re really pleased with the way everyone has bought into The Awapai Way,” he says. “It’s not a ground-breaking business strategy but it has helped us move away from doing the ‘same old-same old’ every day. Success can only be measured as we progress through the year, but we’re confident it will help us achieve higher levels of performance in all areas of the farm business.”

The team at Awapai is now using a web-based tool to communicate and keep up to date with what is happening on the farm – their “Y-Z generation tool” Wikispaces (www.wikispaces.com) is a free internet site which allows people to share work and ideas and communicate within a closed group. Wikispaces is also being used by schools and community groups and is proving an excellent way of keeping a farm management team working together and landing on that same page.

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