Hawke's Bay farmers looking to improve feed budgeting skills have already made on-farm changes since joining a Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) Action Group.

Southern Hawke's Bay farmer Grant Massie, who runs up to 9000 sheep plus cattle on 1070ha at Whetukura, near Dannevirke, says since joining the group, he's changed his approach to feed budgeting.

"I only used to use it once a year to set the plan for winter and didn't update it all the time," he said.

"But we're going into a phase where the feed covers are a bit more important and it's not a case of, 'Can I get through winter?', but, 'I've got feed and what can I put on it and what can make the best money'?"

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"The group creates an environment where everybody's on a similar page. They want to do things better and it comes back to feeding."

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With son Logan working at home and two other children on the scene, Massie wanted them all to be on the same page about how they utilised feed. He sent them to one of consultant John Stantiall's feed-budgeting courses and then signed them up to the newly formed RMPP Action Group.

"The group creates an environment where everybody's on a similar page," Massie says.

"They want to do things better and it comes back to feeding. They probably all know how to feed stock but the planning to make sure the feed's there is probably something that we all need to upskill on."

Change in timing

Since joining the Action Group, Massie has changed the timing of sales and purchases on the farm.

"We were bringing in cattle through the winter. But, based on our feed budget, we held back on that and make sure the feed's there before making the purchase. That's gone very well for us this year."

Massie has changed the way he farms from straight breeding and finishing to producing two-tooth ewes for other farmers, having 5300 hoggets and selling 4500 as two-tooths, some of which are mated. To make the business work, the stock must be well fed, and Massie sees feed budgeting as essential to doing that effectively.

Before each Action Group meeting, members must update their feed budgets and bring those with them on their laptops.

"John [Stantiall] is there to check that over," he said. "Then the whole group talks about how things are going, give suggestions or get take-homes for themselves. The interactive nature of the Action Group makes it really worthwhile."

Fellow group member Daniel Preece, who oversees a 2000ha sheep and beef breeding and finishing property near Dannevirke, said: "Our two block managers were at the stage of learning about feed budgeting — the timing was perfect really to push them along in that direction. It's good to get them into a group situation that makes learning a bit easier.

"It's definitely helping with feed management on the farm. The guys are identifying any feed surpluses and deficits and making the required changes."

RMPP Action Network contributes $4000 seed-funding per farm business, which is pooled to pay for group facilitators and to bring in expert advice.

Preece says the Action Group meetings, each one held on a different member's farm, give everyone a lift. "At the end of the group, we sit down and have a bit of a yarn and everyone just seems to be absolutely buzzing.

"Everyone seems to be getting something out of the day so it's fantastic really."