Study sharpens management practices

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Nuffield Scholar Paul Adam

Grain grower Paul Adam is always looking for ways to improve efficiency on his farm, ‘Dysart’, at Tottenham in central New South Wales:

“We went down a no-till and controlled-traffic path. We got to the end of that and thought, OK, we’ve made all these massive efficiency gains so where is our next big gain going to come from? That led me on the Nuffield journey.”

A Nuffield Scholarship in 2011 took the 36-year-old across North America and to Europe.

He left Australian shores keen to visit the machinery manufacturing centres and see what they had to offer. “Our machinery costs are substantial.”

He visited two Case plants and an Amity airseeder plant in the US, then Multidrive in the UK and Claas in Germany. He was also interested in reducing compaction, but even a conversation with the head of tractor design at Claas failed to provide the answers he was looking for. “It seemed they are happy just to put on bigger tyres … but for me, if you are rolling more ground down, you are damaging more surface soil.”

Paul began to realise that Australia is as much as 10 years more advanced than North America and Europe with no-till practices and because the Australian market is such a small portion of world machinery sales there are not many manufacturers building machinery to Australian growers’ needs.

Paul started to question how Australian growers had got so far ahead, and put it down to necessity: “Our climate conditions are more challenging and we don’t have the government support or subsidies that the Europeans or North Americans enjoy as a backstop.”

As a consequence of his observations Paul realised that the next big efficiency gain was going to be more subtle; improvements through better managing every aspect of the farm business.

“The gains from here are probably all going to be one and two per cent gains; all the smaller stuff, and it is going to take a lot of management to put them together.”

Paul subsequently took up a post-Nuffield Scholarship offer, to take an Advanced Course in Agricultural Business Management with theUK Worshipful Company of Farmers. “I saw it as an amazing opportunity. It was a bit like Nuffield, a lot of the learning is the networks you form and the people you meet.”

Now he is back and focused on ‘Dysart’, a 1268-hectare property, plus another 1035ha he and his wife Meggan lease. His parents, Russell and Deidre, also retain an interest in the business. This year they are growing canola, wheat, barley and lupins and running some Merino sheep.

Before he took up the Nuffield Scholarship, Paul was advised to take his time before implementing changes on the farm. “A lot of guys said ‘don’t come home and try and change everything, just settle back for 12 or 18 months and pick a direction, decide what you are going to do from there’.”

He has been back since September 2011 and says he is now starting to see clearly what he wants to do and change.

“One of the biggest things I learnt was that my time, in a lot of cases, can be better spent making good decisions, rather than doing the actual physical work,” he says.

There is nothing really big that I can implement at home, so I have to focus on improving what I do.”

Since arriving home from his study tour, Paul says this has meant concentrating on improving his rotations – of crops and chemicals.

He has also increased the range of chemical groups he uses on-farm to help avoid the herbicide resistance he observed overseas.

This year, Paul is growing canola for the first time and plans to use his new knowledge of finance gained through the scholarship to assist with farm expansion.

More information:

Paul Adam, 0428 924 155,
dysart1@bigpond.com

 

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Region Overseas, South, North, West