Extension of Feed Planning Tool Development

Project number:                    74323

Lead contractor:                   Farmax

Start & end date:                   October 2012 – September 2014

 

The Problem:

EBLEX with financial support from M&S and Silver Fern Farms have been involved in a trial of Farmax – a feed budgeting tool from NZ – on eight English farms and nine NZ farms.  It ran from May 2011 to September 2012.  The program has two tools – one is for short-term monitoring of feed supply and the other is a long-term modelling tool to investigate the effect, on both feed supply and financial parameters, of different farming strategies.  The program has been used to develop supply and demand curves for the first time for English farms.

There are currently very few advisers in the UK able to talk to producers about feed planning, even less are able to generate a feed budget.  More English data, especially weight data and grass growth from a range of years, is required to make the files more meaningful.  There is a need to develop supportive material to help collect the data from English farmers, as some of the information required may not be normally collected.

 

Project Aims:

  • To increase the number of farms that are running Farmax to 15 (max) – this will include as many as the original trial producers as possible and any of the new farms will need to be commercial producers
  • To train 3-4 people to become Farmax “consultants and to maintain producers files – they can also deliver meetings on feed planning to other producers
  • To test remote training for both producers and “consultants via video conferencing with NZ – this will reduce the cost (LG will be in the room as “local support)
  • To use Farmax where appropriate as part of other projects to add value, e.g. Legume Bonus and possibly NottinghamUniversity’s efficiency project

 

Approach:

Additional producers and “consultants will be identified and trained.  Each consultant will be responsible for two to three files.  There will be review meetings with “consultants every quarter on farms, and a NZ consultant will be used yearly to ensure the files are correct.

 

Deliverables:

  • EBLEX will be helping to upskill producers and advisers, so they disseminate the feed planning message further.
  • The trained “consultants can deliver future BRP feed planning meetings and workshops

Farmax will continue to generate efficiency measures that can be used to challenge the industry and used with BRP messages

 

Results:

  • Liz Genever and Poppy Frater of EBLEX are trained to use Farmax to a high level and are the only people in the UK who can model farms on Farmax
  • Four of the Phase I farms wanted to continue but did not make it to the end of the first year.
  • Seven new farms were modelled as part of Phase II, of which five remained active to the end of this project and these were all involved in other projects
  • Seven advisers and consultants engaged with the project to varying degrees with the monthly webinar being reasonable successfully. Another three advisers and consultants indicated an interest in being involved in the project
    EBLEX staff needs to develop tools and messages to engage levy payers with feed planning (understand supply and demand and how it changes) and system-based approach (understanding the impact of decisions of feed supply and physical and financial performance indicators)

 

Outcomes and next steps

  • The Farmax approach to understanding farm systems has developed BRP messages significantly
  • There is a small, but growing, group of producers and advisers who are ready to engage fully with the feed budgeting approach
  • Significant support for the producers involved in Farmax is required
    Farmax is a very useful tool to gather a wide range of data and is particularly useful when farms are involved in projects
  • EBLEX was ahead of other organisations by funding this work and being involved in the resulting discussions