Side aims to help farmers work smarter

There is no difficulty in making farmers work smarter, says the South Island Dairy Event (Side) organising committee chairman Paul Marshall.

''The opportunity for farmers is to work smarter.

''That is what Side aims to do and that is really exciting,'' Mr Marshall said.

He and his 10-member committee have spent hundreds of hours organising the 2014 Side dairy conference programme. The conference is to be held at Stadium Southland, Invercargill, from June 23 to 25.

The conference will be a celebration of dairying and includes keynote speakers, business seminars and more than 30 workshops, looking at topics ranging from business strategies, risk management, human resources, the environment, animal husbandry, nutrition and new technology.

The motivational programme is linked to the theme of the conference ''Riding the Wave'' to encourage building business resilience.

''All my committee members are extremely busy people - sharemilkers, farmers, advisers - and they have been fantastic generating ideas for the conference,'' Mr Marshall said.

He said the inclusion of some younger farmers as well as the geographical spread of members meant the committee was more sensitive to regional issues, such as the Waituna Lagoon.

''Having a couple of younger farmers just starting out in their sharemilking career [on the committee] has given a real impetus to a career pathway and leadership focus in the programme.''

The environment and dealing with the climate were also going to be key themes at the conference.

''The environment is probably the single biggest risk to the dairy growth trajectory and there is no earthly point in sticking the industry's head in the sand and pretending it is going away.

''We can't control the climate but we can make strategic decisions to manage the risks and benefits.''

He was looking forward to hearing motivational speaker and sportsman Rob Waddell, as well as consultant Jeremy Savage and DairyNZ's Dr Rick Prodmore.

He said he was looking forward to hearing comedian Ben Hurley, who would be MC at the formal dinner, and seeing the gold sponsors' team pursuit around the velodrome.

''The teams of four have got to have at least one woman and one farmer and no ring-ins.

''It should be a bit of a hoot and I think there will be some clandestine practices happening.''

He said as of last week about 400 people had registered, but they were hoping for about 600.

He urged farmers to attend, even though it was the off-season.

It was important for them to do so for their personal growth and to get out and network with other farmers and expose themselves to new and challenging ideas.

- yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz