Every dairy farm is different, with its own unique needs and goals, but all successful farms share a common element - good planning.
For Derek and Julia Gale from Timboon in Victoria, success is about planning for the long-term goals they have for their dairy farm and their family.
"It's not just planning for tomorrow, but planning for next month, next year, even the next decade," they said.
Whether your goal is to grow your herd, improve your farm's profitability, invest in new farm buildings and equipment, or just carve out a little more time to spend with the family, it takes careful planning to make it happen.
This is why Dairy Australia has created the 'Our Farm, Our Plan' national program, which equips dairy farmers with the tools they need to plan effectively and provides one-on-one support in creating a tailored game plan to achieve their specific goals.
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Farmers who sign up for the program have the opportunity to participate in group workshops with other farmers, either in person or online, which are delivered by Dairy Australia's team of regional experts.
Participants, like Phil and Nicole Lock, also from Timboon, are then taken through the Our Farm, Our Plan planning process and have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other farmers and be assisted in developing a customised plan for their farm.
"Our Farm, Our Plan encouraged us to get more efficient in how we manage our farm and have clear long-term goals to work towards," the Locks said.
"It helps us be on the same page with where the business is going, and what we want it to look like down the track."
I'd really recommend doing Our Farm, Our Plan for any age group because everyone's got goals, and everyone needs something that can be put down on a page, and you can go back to and refer to.- Maddy LeBlanc, Mirboo North, Victoria
The program also provides dairy farmers with a range of useful tools and resources.
These include self-assessment tools like the Farm Fitness Checklist and the Farm Business Snapshot, which help farmers identify where they are now and where opportunities for improvement can be found.
Each section of the checklist prompts thinking and discussion about different aspects of the farm business.
All participants receive one-on-one follow-up support from Dairy Australia over a 24-month period after the program, with access to advice and information to help put the plan into action on the farm.
By the end of the process, program participants will have created a Plan-on-a-Page which can be shared with others - for example, the broader team, the bank and other business advisers - to ensure the goals and objectives outlined on the plan are clear and always front-of-mind when making decisions.
Since its launch in 2020, the Our Farm, Our Plan program has already helped hundreds of Australian dairy farmers clarify their goals and improve their farms.
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Neil Webster, Dairy Australia's Lead of Farm Performance, said that good planning was essential to the success of farms.
"To be successful, you really do need a game plan," Mr Webster said.
"And the best time to focus more on planning is really now. Farmers with a game plan are better prepared to make the right calls, in good times and bad."
Mr Webster explained that the process of actually putting a plan down on paper can be invaluable to farmers.
"There's some great research that shows writing a plan down increases the likelihood of following through significantly. We provide a simple Plan-on-a-Page to equip farmers to do this - it is the thing that 'makes it happen' and is widely used in businesses and organisations across the world."
"Anyone can have a game plan in their head, but in most farm businesses there's more than one head, so getting it down on a page means your goals are understood and clear to all," Mr Webster said.
"A dream without a plan is really just a wish. Dairy Australia's Our Farm, Our Plan program really can help you achieve your farming and personal dreams by equipping you with a simple but effective process and the support you need to turn your dreams into a reality.
"Our biggest challenge is getting farmers to the start line - the feedback from those farmers who have done Our Farm, Our Plan is overwhelmingly positive, with the overall rating of the value to them sitting at more than nine out of 10. That's a great endorsement."
Jasmine Kneebone from Nambrok in Victoria agreed that she got a lot from the program.
"I thought my goals were impossible, but after doing the Our Farm, Our Plan program and breaking it down, I feel I am ready to step up and achieve my goals," Ms Kneebone said.
The Our Farm, Our Plan program is provided at no cost to all Australian dairy farmers as one of the service benefits delivered through Dairy Australia's dairy levy funding.
The program is delivered with the support of the Gardiner Foundation and the Australian government's Future Drought Fund, through AgVic, NSW DPI, Tasmania's DENR and PIRSA in South Australia.
To find out more about how Our Farm, Our Plan can help your farm, visit dairyaustralia.com.au/OFOP or call Dairy Australia on 1800 548 073.
Luke Harris and Maddy LeBlanc, a young couple who farm in Mirboo North in Victoria's Gippsland region, recently enrolled in Dairy Australia's Our Farm, Our Plan program.
The couple, who became engaged after Luke wrote a marriage proposal on the side of one of their cows, had just started out share farming and quickly realised how important it was to set clear goals in order to be successful.
"It was a really big thing for us to have goals, and to both be on the same page of what we want to achieve," Ms LeBlanc explained.
"So, Our Farm, Our Plan was brilliant for that."
Mr Harris said the flexibility of being able to do the program virtually really suited the busy couple.
"With Our Farm, Our Plan, we did it all online," he said.
"It only probably took an hour and a half once a week. We just came in at lunchtime, sat down, started up the laptop and sat there on Zoom. That suited us really well."
After attending virtual group sessions conducted by their local GippsDairy team, the couple were guided through a planning process that helped them clearly identify their goals and plan for their future.
The end result is a Plan-on-a-Page that helps them remain focused on the big picture of where they want to go.
"So, we've got our game plan," said Ms LeBlanc, proudly displaying the couple's Plan-on-a-Page.
"It's on a page. It's got where we want to work towards, and where we want to be. And how we want to get there."
The couple are now proud advocates for the Our Farm, Our Plan program and encourage their fellow dairy farmers to sign up.
"I'd really recommend doing Our Farm, Our Plan for any age group because everyone's got goals, and everyone needs something that can be put down on a page, and you can go back to and refer to," Ms LeBlanc said.
"Even when you're stuck doing the day-to-day things, the big picture is always going to be there, so it's really well worth doing Our Farm, Our Plan."
Want to find out how to get involved? Contact your Dairy Australia's regional team or call the Our Farm, Our Plan team on 1800 548 073.
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