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Farm Management

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Farming is rapidly changing. Mechanisation and computerisation are just two things which are having a great impact on the way farms are managed. As new tehnologies develop and world economies merge; the new global community impacts increasingly upon the farmer. It is still very feasible to operate a successful and profitable farm in technologically advanced countries; but only if the right choices are made, proper planning is practiced and good management is adheared to. This book is designed as an up to date, broad and balanced perspective on farm management. If you are new to agriculture or farming, it will develop an appreciation of the scope and nature of managing a farm, small or large. For established farmers it is a useful way to refresh and update trends and techniques. The book includes sections on:
  • The scope and nature of the farm industry
  • The farm site
  • Production systems
  • Managing livestock
  • Managing crops
  • Managing pastures
  • Managing equipment and materials
  • Computer applications
  • Farm structure and buildings
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Farm planning
  • Managing manpower & safety
  • Water management
  • Diversification



    Farms can be of many types, they might be a fat lamb and wool producing farm, a dairy farm producing milk, or a cropping venture producing vegetables or grain. Most farms, while generally specialising perhaps in one or two areas, are often capable of producing a variety of products without too much changeover. This is a handy position to be in, especially considering the sometimes volatile nature of such factors as the weather and markets.

    What is produced may not neccessarily be for sale, but to reduce costs that would otherwise have to be outlayed, such as hay or fodder crops grown by a dairy farmer to feed his herd in times of poor pasture. Alternatively, having a milking house cow, or running a few head of beef for meat are simple, but effective ways of reducing your expenditure. 


    It is tempting to choose to grow particular livestock or crops because it 'seems' a great idea; without fully considering (and comparing) all other options. Farmers may choose to grow wine grapes because they like drinking wine. They may decide on farming Emu's because they have read enthusiastic articles about these animals. Some farmers choose to plant a particular crop, because they know someone else who just had a good year with it.

    These reasons alone are not enough! You need more if you are planning to invest a lot of time, money and effort into some particular farm enterprise. Follow a logical and complete process, when selecting what to produce. Preferably, work it out on paper, perhaps like this:

    1. List all of the possible things which can be grown/produced in your locality.

       Be sure to consider factors such as soil types and conditions, water supplies, climatic

       conditions, etc. (see Chapter 2 for further site considerations).

    2. Consider what facilities/abilities you have (ie. land, manpower, expertise, money, etc).

       Remove anything from your list of potential products that would require facilities that

       would be expensive or difficult to provide..

    3. Consider how long it might take before each potential product would be ready to market.

       How long would it be before you get a return on your investment? Can you cope

       financially until then? Consider what demand there might be for each of these things at

       that point in time. Reduce the list of potential products further.

    4. Consider the level of risk involved with each of the remaining products. Think about

       what might go wrong with each (eg. flood, drought, pest plague, over supply on the

       market, etc).

       Now produce a new list arranging your options in order according to risk - the least

       risky at the top, the most risky at the bottom.

    5. Now choose what you want to produce. You may decide to produce more than one type

       of produce - hence reducing the likelihood of serious failure (ie. if one fails,

       another may turn a profit).


    The use of Australian standards in farming is a relatively new concept in Australian farming. In the past the produce of farms may have been tested for impurities or chemical traces but actual farm practise standards were left to the farmer and still largely are. However, more buyers of produce are requiring certain standards in the ways produce is prepared for market. This, they feel ensures the quality of the goods, whether they be eggs, milk, meat or cabbage. Standards might detail the type of housing that animals are kept in, the food they are given, the levels of chemicals they will be subjected to. They will also force farmers to look at their own methods of farming and this will hopefully encourage better farm practises all round.


    Management involves making decisions, and then following through to implement those decisions. This generally requires long term planning. Planning should be routinely reviewed and modified to fit changing situations.

    Making good management decisions requires two things:

    1. Full knowledge of the possible options (ie. What are all of the choices).

       Lateral thinking helps greatly in being able to devise different and innovative options.

       Successful farmers are often good lateral thinkers.

    2. The ability to forsee all of the important implications arising from following each

       alternative choice (both short & long term implications). Part of this process involves

       determining and considering the likely problems associated with each option (ie. this is

       called Risk Analysis).


    Due to a number of key factors, such as cost and suitable knowledge, the people who are most likely to become farmers are those people who have been raised or lived on a farm. This is not always the case and recently there have been increasing numbers of people who are leaving urban lifestyles for a farming life. Hobby farmers often start with a small allotment, while maintaining their mainstream work or income until they are comfortable about making a living from their 'hobby'. Some progress to larger properties once they have hopefully established the skills, knowledge, and financial backing to enable them to farm profitably on a larger scale.


    Farming is a dynamic business, don't let the old cliche of the slow talking man on the land fool you. Those farmers who don't keep their finger on the economic pulse soon go out of business. In Australia, many soldier settlement farms were established after the world wars. Many soldier settlers have gone on to create viable business enterprises for themselves and their offspring but the majority struggled and eventually opted for a less harsh lifestyle.

    Improving an existing farm requires assessing the positive and negative aspects of what exists on the property, and weighing up your options for improvement. Are the pastures weary? Do the fences need attention? What about the stock, for example, are these cows second rate milkers because no breeding program has been in place. Obviously the list of questions goes on and on and should continue even when you feel that you have rectified many of the existing problems.


    There are many forms of share farming arrangements available and they tend to be individually tailored to the situation. Often they will involve a percentage of the profit in lieu of wages for a farm worker, but may also include other factors such as rental or lodgings, or partial wage plus a smaller percentage of profits, etc...The share farmer may have total managerial control of the property albeit with some budgetary considerations in place. If you are a potential share farmer be sure to thoroughly investigate any proposed arrangements you may be contemplating before you sign any binding agreements, in particular ensure that any estimates of future profits are realistic. In addition be sure to put down in the agreement all responsibilities of both parties, including who is responsible for which costs (e.g. rates, services, insurances, cost of materials).


    Leasing or renting is generally considered a more flexible way of farming than share farming. Farmers can expand or reduce the amount of leased land to match market forces (subject to the availability of land for leasing). It does however have the problem of "insecurity of tenure".  Leasing can allow a farmer with limited capital to start a new enterprise. A major problem with leasing land, particularly for short term periods, is that most farmers will be unwilling to spend much time and effort on maintaining or improving the leased property, unless they absolutely have to (e.g. replace fences that are falling down). This can result in a decrease in the productivity of the leased land, often in a very short time. Some lease agreements stipulate certain activities that must be carried out on the part of the leasee (person who is leasing the property), such as maintaining fences, controlling weeds, and maintaining pasture quality.

166 Pages Published by Kangaroo Press. (1996)

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Farm Management Farm Management
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