About Focus Farms

Dairy Australia delivers valued information, resources and services that create opportunities and support dairy farmers to run successful dairy farming businesses. The successful Focus Farm model has been replicated across regions to develop a network of farms that have a clear focus on whole farm systems and profitability. Through its Regional Development Programs (RDPs) Dairy Australia will develop, maintain and grow regional group extension networks to give farmers and participants increased benefits and value.

Farmers in meeting

Focus farmers are selected through an application process and supported over the two years that they are in place as a Focus Farm by a farm consultant and a support group made up of other farmers, service providers and people selected by the focus farmers. The support group meets regularly throughout the year and typically two open days annually are held for other interested farmers and the dairy industry to get a close look at the Focus Farm’s progress.

Focus Farms provide the opportunity for farmers to learn through the “story” of the Focus Farm. This is supported by:

• Applying good business management principles to decision making
• Allowing the opportunity for discussion and analysis of the risks
• Drawing on the collective experience of the support group
• Monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of the decisions that are made
• Using the visibility of decisions made to support a wider audience of farmers

 Group shot of farmers

Dairy farmers making complex decisions is not new but what is adding to the complexity is the increasing level of volatility in the operating environment making the outcomes of decisions more uncertain. Whether that increased volatility is due to markets, costs or seasonal conditions, there is a real need for decision support that will allow farmers to be more confident about the decisions they need to make. The Focus Farm program focus is on improving farmer decision-making, management of risk and increasing farm profitability.

The tracking of real decisions, on real farms under real conditions on Focus Farms over a two-year period provides visibility and insight into the impact of those decisions on the bottom line. At a regional level Focus Farms provide visibility about decisions made in response to regional conditions and settings. The national network of Focus Farms provides the ability to gain that visibility across more farms, more farming systems and various scales of operation. Complementing this, Dairy Australia’s investment in support for discussion groups provides Dairy Australia and RDPs with a strong connection with farmers at a local level.

A strength of the Focus Farm model is that it uses a variety of extension and communication methods to expose the program to a wide cross section of dairy farmers. This includes the establishment of a support group of farmers and service providers, typically two open days at the Focus Farms each year, regular information in rural media outlets about farm performance and decisions, and the sourcing of expertise as required for the support group activity and for open days. RDPs provide regular information about Focus Farm performance and activities.