Dale Poyner, thanks for agreeing to be this month’s Farmer in Focus!
Can you give us a bit of background on yourself and your farm?
We purchased some of the family farm, located 8kms north of Nullawil, from our father and uncle. We have been operating in our own right for around seven years. Reece and I have a passion for farming and the opportunity to bring up families on the land was one of the main drivers to go farming.
We both work full-time off-farm. I’m an accountant and Reece is an electrician. Being an accountant can be a real asset as you can learn a lot from the successful farmers and where the profits are maximised. Essentially our off-farm income allows us to have the lifestyle we want with all farming proceeds to be re-imbursed back into the business. Starting from a very small holding it was important for us to try and diversify due to the risk associated with varying seasonal conditions.
What has been happening on the farm recently?
We operate approximately 2,000 ha (including leased and share-farmed land) which is mixed cropping and sheep. We have recently started to lamb down ewes in containment areas which has allowed us to increase the lambing percentage and to use some of our less productive cropping country strictly for livestock purposes. A game changer for us was lentils which has allowed us to improved soil health. The favourable seasonal conditions of the last three seasons in particular has allowed us to expand our business.
How do you juggle the farm, off-farm work and family? Do you have any tricks you can share with us?
We are both lucky to have supportive wives and family which is extremely important to both of us. When running the farm we are always looking at creating efficiencies in what we do whether that is engaging contractors to assist with spraying or harvesting or when upgrading equipment. In our off-farm work we meet a lot of people. We are in a unique situation where we can pick their minds and then best adapt their information to suit our business. As I say to my clients: it’s about surrounding yourself with the right people who can assist you in growing your business, whether that’s agronomists or stock agents or neighbouring farmers.
How do you manage your roles on the farm?
As it’s just Reece and myself, it works quite well as I look after the finances and he is certainly more mechanically minded than me. We certainly have a plan for the future and how it will look, with any decision we discuss it and most of the time we are in agreeance with what needs to be done. During busy periods of cropping and harvest we look to engage more hands to assist as we can’t do it all ourselves.
What are some of the challenges you are facing?
Some of the early days weren’t easy and we both had some sleepless nights worrying about the weather and if you are actually making the right decisions. What we always come back to is we don’t want to be doing anything else and we love where we live. We are both believers that hard work will pay off in the end.
What are your plans for your farm in 2022? Will you be doing anything differently?
Going into an uncertain season ahead with the issues surrounding input costs, we may look to do some chemical fallow and continue with our rotation of cereals only to be grown on legumes or fallow where possible.
What are your long-term plans for the farm? Will you both always want to work off farm?
I think in the near future Reece will look to scale back his off-farm work, we don’t want to do anymore than we currently are. We are about getting better at what we are doing rather than getting bigger.
Who do you rely on for advice?
I am lucky to have some clients who are exceptional farmers and I am always picking their minds. We have also recently signed up to BCG and we certainly do use the information provided by the group to review our processes against other industry standards.
What is the best advice you’ve been given as a farmer or in life?
Bigger is not always better
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