Red meat group shares knowledge

Nadine and Scott Tomlinson during a Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Network group meeting at...
Nadine and Scott Tomlinson during a Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Network group meeting at Barewood Station. PHOTO: SALLY RAE
With a relatively new farming business, Dunback couple Scott and Nadine Tomlinson were keen to surround themselves with some key people.

So they joined an Otago-based Red Meat Profit Partnership Action Network group made up of nine farming couples.

Last week, the group held its second meeting at Barewood Station, a Lone Star Farms-owned property between Outram and Middlemarch. The focus was on body condition scoring and parasite management.

The RMPP Action Network aimed to help farmers put their ideas into action on-farm. Essentially, a group of farmers identified a problem and, with the help of experts, worked together to come up with a solution.

The network was made up of farmers' action groups, with between seven and nine farm businesses in each group.

Each group was eligible for kick-start funding of $4000 per farm business, which was pooled for the group to pay for a facilitator and expert advice.

It was supported by trained facilitators to guide the group and help identify experts who could share new knowledge and ideas.

Any farmer was eligible if they owned or managed a commercial farm business that contributed to red meat production.

Anzco Foods agribusiness developer Genevieve Steven, who is facilitating the group the Tomlinsons are involved with, said the company started setting up action network groups in October last year.

In February, she started putting together the Otago group, using Anzco livestock representatives to "act as connectors".

People were "super keen" to participate, including women who had done the Understanding Your Farming Business course through the Agri-Women's Development Trust which had done "amazing things" for the sector.

The group, which held its first meeting in March, had been focusing on increasing profitability. One of its subject categories was how to produce higher-quality feed, with a lot having invested in irrigation.

Already, the group had been "picking up a lot of traction" and she was looking forward to seeing where they were in two years' time.

Mr and Mrs Tomlinson farm a finishing operation on about 400ha in East Otago, under both irrigation and dryland, as part of a family farming operation.

Mrs Tomlinson grew up on a sheep and cropping farm at Clinton and completed an agriculture degree at Lincoln University.

After shepherding in the North Island for several years, she headed overseas for her
OE. On her return, she joined Ballance Agri-Nutrients as a field consultant.

She married Scott and moved to East Otago where the couple started a family. Mrs Tomlinson still did some part-time work for Ballance in its farm sustainability team.

The couple had a full-time live-in nanny to help look after their two young sons and Mrs Tomlinson said she had a great work-life balance.

Mr Tomlinson was brought up on a farm in North Canterbury where his parents had a breeding and finishing operation.

After completing an agricultural science degree at Lincoln, he worked on large-scale properties in the North Island for several years before heading overseas.

When he returned, he joined CRT (now Farmlands) as a field representative, before the opportunity arose to get involved family farming at Dunback.

While it required getting to grips with the climate and the area, it had been a great move. It was also good getting into that full-time farming role that both he and his wife enjoyed, he said.

They were starting to implement things they had learned from their tertiary studies and various jobs.

As far as their involvement with the group, things were evolving and it was about tweaking and enhancing their business and surrounding themselves with people who could lead them in that direction. Some of the sessions could really add value to their farm, he said.

A lot of couples involved in the group the Tomlinsons had not met before.

They were not afraid to expose their businesses - they had to, so the others got a sense of what they were trying to achieve.

That probably removed barriers, rather than if it was just a bunch of neighbours and mates. Being in a room with strangers had its benefits, Mr Tomlinson said.

And it was not daunting; they might be strangers but they were all involved in the same industry so there were a lot of commonalities there, and that was why it was a success.

The couple's own farming business was probably different from the rest of the group, not having a breeding operation, but there were still similarities to learn together and the same "take-home messages" from the likes of the day at Barewood, he said.

Mrs Tomlinson believed a strength of the group was that it was small.

They were able to go to farms and ask specialised questions in that environment and, being a small group, they could also direct where they wanted it to head.

Having both partners involved in the group was key to making sure they implemented important points from the day, Mr Tomlinson said.

On the way home, they were able to have really good discussions about what they learned.

The pair were optimistic about the future of farming.

They were enjoying a good run of both prices and climatic conditions, remained passionate about farming "and what's around the corner", Mr Tomlinson said.


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