In this month's newsletter:
  • Getting Land Environment Plans sorted with Total Ag.
  • "Reset the clock" on your farming business.
  •  Total Ag sets farming women on track
  •  New forage potential explored with Total Ag.
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Total Ag consultants are working hard with their farmer clients to deliver better profits, higher returns and balanced farm businesses.
Land Environment Plans put Total Ag clients ahead.
With environmental plan changes underway throughout most catchments in New Zealand, Total Ag director Rob Macnab is helping more of his clients come to grips with what the implications are for their farm businesses.
So far Rob has completed over 200 Land Environment Plans (LEP)s for farmers in the Waikato-King Country region, and they are proving a valuable precursor to the Farm Environment Plans required under the Waikato Regional Council’s Healthy Rivers plan.
He is also running workshops in conjunction with Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Waikato Regional Council on developing FEPs.

“At this stage we do not have the full details of what will be required of the FEPs, but we can be assured they will contain much of what is in the LEPs. Clients that have gone through the process of setting their FEPs are well down the track for complying with Healthy Rivers.”

The exercise is proving invaluable in helping farmers identify areas of the farm that can be intensified, balanced against those that can be de-stocked or retired, achieving the desired environmental outcome, and profit improvements.

Having Rob on board is helping clients manage what can be a complex process, sometimes requiring varying levels of nutrient management expertise. 

Accurate Overseer inputs are essential to ensure farmers are not under or over stating their allowable nitrogen losses, and Rob’s experience with Overseer, and understanding of farm system inputs is invaluable in ensuring this is avoided.

Call Rob today to share his insights on developing effective, compliant environment plans for your farm business (0273) 203 185.
FoodBytes opens opportunities.
A recent invite to attend Rabobank’s inaugural FoodBytes! Farm2Fork Summit in Sydney provided Total Ag director Rob Macnab with a reinvigorated, inspired insight into how the global food industry is evolving.

The invite only event was a mix of presentations from some of the world’s leading food experts, merged with an exciting “street food” event layout, making for a more interactive and interesting environment than the conventional conference itinerary.
The conference was designed to showcase the entrepreneurs building the next generation of food and agribusiness related companies that are disrupting an innovating in the food chain.

Rob found the event to contain elements of “Dragons Den” for showcasing potential investment opportunities to investors, to “Master Chef” with demonstrations on some of the newest and most exciting ingredients available for conference delegates to sample.

“The opportunity to attend an event like this is invaluable to give you an idea of what is coming very quickly down the track. It certainly has an influence on the advice we can offer our clients, knowing some of the disruptive technology that is coming, like plant based ‘meat’ products, which could have a significant impact upon how we view red meat production, and impact upon it.”
Women on the land get voice in new group.
Farming women throughout the Waikato King Country region now have the chance to be part of their own farm group, getting to share ideas on farm management and have the opportunity to get off the farm for part of the day.
Total Ag consultant Heather Gilbert is facilitating the Waikato-King Country Agri-womens’ discussion group. Heather is finding interest in the group is growing, despite it only being early days in its formation.
“The group got 25 women attending at its first meeting, and we are confident that is only going to grow. We are covering a huge area, with the last meeting drawing from as far afield as Retaruke.” 

Heather intends to combine some elements of fun with informative sessions that include guest speakers and visits to agribusiness operations in the region.
A growing concern for the group’s members is the impact the Healthy Rivers plan is likely to have on the operations and profitability of hill country dry stock operations.

“I think the level of understanding within the dry stock sector is actually already very high. More farmers are recognising the effect the plan will have, and want to know where to go from here, in terms of submitting on the plan before it becomes set in stone.”
To help women in the group understand the impact of the plan and how to submit, guest speakers to the group will include Total Ag director Rob Macnab and Waikato Regional Council Healthy Rivers expert Marc Gascoigne.

Rob has been heavily involved with the Farmers for Positive Change group opposing aspects of the plan, and also helps farmer clients develop farm environment plans required in the Healthy Rivers plan.
Heather is also busy working with dairy operators alongside fellow Total Ag consultant Kathryne Easton, developing Sustainable Milk Plans for the Waipa catchment.

The DairyNZ sponsored initiative aims to benchmark a farm’s environmental performance, identifying risk areas and where improvements can be made. This allows priorities for action to be set, and ongoing support from Heather will help evaluate progress and revise goals.
“Overall the farms we have done have been quite environmentally aware, with good riparian plantings and waterway protection, there has been a lot of progress made on farms in recent years.”
To learn more about Heather’s work contact her on:  or 021-979 459.
Helping clients reset their farming clock.

A common desire for many of Aaron Baker’s clients is a need to put themselves at the center of their business, in such a way they are getting the balance right between farm demands, financial goals, family needs and personal satisfaction.

Aaron says it’s a tough balance to achieve, made even tougher when the climatic vagaries of a region like Northland are added into the mix. 
Having Aaron on board to offer his insights, experience and impartiality is proving an invaluable asset for those farmer clients who are serious about pursuing whole of farm success in their business and family life

Aaron is finding strong interest from farmers wanting to “reset the clock” on their farming business. It is a desire bought about in part by the shockwaves the low dairy payout and poor sheep returns bought with it, and a recognition among farmers that volatility in agricultural commodity markets is here to stay. As a result farm businesses need to be robust enough to handle the downs with the ups.

“This brings a need to have a comprehensive farm systems review, really getting under the hood of your farm business to see where your strengths are, what weaknesses need to be worked on, and how to leverage your opportunities with the resources you have.”
Often some tough decisions will come out of the reviews, including how to handle that elephant in the corner many farms have – succession.

Census data shows the average age of cattle farmers in 2013 was 56, up from 53 in 2006, while sheep farmers on average were 53, up from 50 in 2006.
Rabobank research found less than 20% of farmer respondents had a documented succession plan, 48% had an informal plan and a third had nothing in place at all.
That was despite two thirds of respondents aiming to hand over the farm in the next 10 years as they approached 65.

Aaron is able to offer farming families impartial, experienced insights for what can be a fraught subject. 
Meantime demand from investors new to farming businesses is strong in the Northland region, and Aaron is increasingly being called on to help new investors seeking advice on new farm businesses and how to optimise their return from their new investment.
Call Aaron today to discuss re-setting your farming clock-  (022) 163-0474 or
Director skills on board.
Aaron Baker has also recently joined the New Zealand Institute of Directors to further his knowledge and skills around agri-business governance and directorship.
Membership to the Institute enables Aaron to keep up with the latest developments in directorship and agri-business governance. As family and iwi farm businesses in Northland continue to grow in scale, having a strong background in governance and directors’ responsibilities will be an increasingly important ability in his professional skill set.
Contact Aaron for insights and advice on farm business success-  (022) 163 0474
Trial to highlight options for Northland farmers.
Total Ag farm consultants bring a wealth of background experience and hands on farming skills, combined with local knowledge to help farmers in their region get more from their farming business.
Kathryne Easton, Total Ag's Northland consultant has been contributing her background in nutrient inputs, environmental sustainability and understanding of Northland’s tricky climatic conditions to help with the Northland Diversified Forage project.

The project kicked off in July and intends to run for three years. With funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries through the Sustainable Farming Fund, along with a number of significant contributors, it aims to explore feed options for pastoral farming systems in Northland.
“We have three strands to the project. One is five sites set up with plots of annual and perennial legumes planted back in April. They have some annuals often used in the rest of New Zealand, but also some species not seen often in Northland. We want to grow a wide range of both annual and perennial legumes to see how they grow and perform.”

The next strand includes growing some of the annual clovers with companion species including ryegrass and white/red clovers in paddocks on four farms. They are being sampled for their growth rates and performance.

“The last strand is moving diversified forages onto a whole farm basis. We will monitor the impact on the whole farm business for farmers growing substantial areas of non-perennial ryegrasses – for example putting half the farm into tall fescue, or growing substantial areas of lucerne.”

Kathryne is finding farmer interest in the trials is high and is excited by what the longer term results will reveal on the different grasses and crops.

The variety of crops being trialled also brings a range of nutrient and pest challenges.
“We will be monitoring the feed quality of the annuals and perennial legumes as we move through late spring-summer to see how well they do or do not retain their feed value. It is early days yet, but what we are finding is that the best combinations of grasses and crops can be very farm specific, depending upon farm soil type fertility, aspect and climatic conditions.”

She intends to keep her Total Ag clients well informed on the trial’s progress as more data is collected on performance.
To learn more on the trials, or for any farm consultancy advice contact Kathryne at:  or 021-285-0663
Harbour tradition keeps teams sharp.
She may be helping farmers with their businesses during the week, but most weekends Total Ag consultant Heather Gilbert can be found training in one of the country’s more unusual water craft- a whaling boat.
Heather is part of a dedicated Oparau crew committed to keeping the district’s tradition of whale boat racing alive, competing intensely with their neighbouring Te Waitere and Kawhia clubs over a 12km course on the Kawhia harbour.

This year Heather’s crew have already claimed victory in the first race of the season, and look forward to two more races before season’s end.
“It is a long standing tradition in the district, and a great way to bring the community together, with primary, secondary kids and adults all having strong competitive teams,” says Heather.
Total Ag champions new tech.
Total Ag directors Rob Macnab and Aaron Baker are working closely with a number of tech providers, exploring options and opportunities that could deliver better productivity and returns to their farming clients.
Rob is exploring new technology capable of monitoring Health and Safety parameters on farms, to ensure safer farm environments. The technology involves the ability to collect significant amounts of data in a non-invasive way for monitoring and analysis.
Other work includes trialling new technology in animal management systems, assessing how different systems will fit with different farming configurations.

Call Rob or Aaron to discuss how you could integrate technology better with your farming operations.
Rob: 027 320 3185 or Aaron:  022 163 0474

Kaipara Harbour gets a break with group.

Total Ag consultant Kathryne Easton is also closely involved with the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group (IKHMG), aimed at promoting and developing integrated management and co-ordination of the Kaipara Harbour and its catchment.

As the largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere, the Kaipara harbour captures many different interests across its mighty breadth. Kathryne is the programme field director for the group, and brings her skills working at regional council, farm and consultancy level to the position.

“The group is working to showcase best practice across all sectors that rely or are based around the harbour, including industry, farming, tourism and iwi. We are looking forward to showcasing some of the initiatives we have put in place at a farm level to other farmers in the catchment.”
Contact Kathyrne to learn more about the IKHMG
Contact the Total Ag team today for insightful, high quality farm business advice:.   Rob Macnab -      Email:
                          Phone: 027 320 3185
       Aaron Baker -       Email:
                           Phone: 022 163 0474
             Kathryne Easton - Email:
                            Phone: 021 285 0663
           Heather Gilbert      Email:
                             Phone: 021 979 459

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The team at Total Ag would like to take this opportunity to wish all our clients a Merry Chirstmas, and a very Happy New Year.
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