Atiamuri dairy farmers Hayden and Narelle Hilhorst recently took part in DairyNZ's Farm Capability Assessment Programme.

Piloted in 2017 and now moving into stage two, the programme encourages farmers to take a fresh look at their capability on-farm, supporting them to identify learning opportunities aimed at their business goals.

It's about finding the 'right' training for them, including formal, short courses, workshops or peer-to-peer learning.

Making the vague specific


The Hilhorsts' DairyNZ consulting officer (CO) Colin Grainger-Allen has been alongside the couple as part of the programme, initially working through the Farm Gauge questionnaire to reveal any strengths, weaknesses and capability gaps.

"For us it was important to look at the business and see where we needed to improve," says Hayden. "Colin encouraged us to give it a go.

"It identified the areas that need development in our business. We were already aware of these but it highlighted the need for training."

Information into action

Hayden Hilhorst and Emily Cooper work out feed allocation.
Hayden Hilhorst and Emily Cooper work out feed allocation.

Colin then worked with the Hilhorsts to develop a learning action plan to identify, find (and encourage them to sign up for) the right learning they and their staff needed. As well as following this plan, the couple aims to put more emphasis on their future overall planning and their financial focus.

As part of that, "we'll look at the business itself to see where we can cut costs and refine things," Hayden says.

They also want to put more time and thought into the personnel aspect of the business, including their staff's training and goals.

"We enjoyed the whole process; it was beneficial. It definitely shone a light on our weak points," says Hayden.


"Farm Gauge was easy to use but having Colin taking us through it was great too. We got great feedback from him."

Narelle says their learning plan's actions will also help to keep them accountable in the months ahead.

Gauge the opportunity

The two to three-hour Farm Gauge session will help you assess your business, identify learning opportunities and set you up to create a learning action plan to achieve your goals. It's a chance for you to gauge where you're at and bounce ideas off another person, who can point you in the right direction for more support if needed as you develop your plan.


What you can do

Get more information and register for a Farm Capability Assessment at

find out more about Farm Gauge at