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Farmer puts away spreadsheets

Team at FarmIQ on 14/10/15 17:37

Canterbury farm manager Hamish Chamberlain has put aside his spreadsheets this season. Instead, he is using online farm management software to help him manage finishing around 12,000 stock units.

He’s also using the software to produce the new kind of maps required for Farm Environment planning.

“I was looking for a system to simplify things,” says Hamish, who runs a 520ha property near Cheviot with one shepherd.

Hamish ChamberlainOwned by David Teece, it is the finishing block associated with the high country property Esk Head Station. “We bring over all the cattle and most of the lambs from Esk Head and also buy in about 5000 lambs from others,” Hamish explains.

The block is in development mode, with the irrigated area being increased from 70ha to 250ha. He’s got another staff member coming at the beginning of December to help with running it.


In the meantime, the new software is proving its worth. “I used to do all the records for the lamb trading manually. That meant I used to run at least 10 spreadsheets. Those covered things like stock sales and purchases, animal health, weight gains, killing, pasture covers, chemical use and fertiliser use for each season. You need to record all of that to run things efficiently and also you need to show some of it for meat company accreditation.

“It was coming up to time to review the spreadsheets for the next year, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I thought, ‘There must be a better way.’”

With recent developments in cloud computing, he found that there is indeed a far easier way for farmers to record, analyse and report key information. The new cloud-based software creates a farm information hub, he says.

“Now it’s all in one place – I load everything into there. The biggest thing is it saves us a lot of time.”

It has also given associated people like the United States-based owner’s accountant a useful insight into how the farm business works. “They get a better understanding of farming, and the software makes reports like stock tallies simple to understand,” says Hamish. As a result, Esk Head Station is now shifting to the new software as well.


Another advantage he’s found is the software includes a mapping function that he has used to mark up a map to go with the Farm Environment Plan submitted to Environment Canterbury.

“It’s a fairly complex farm, and it would have been complicated to do the map mark-up by hand. With the software I’ve created a map that shows the farm blocks, and with the layering I’ve been able to fairly easily show all the sorts of things that are required.”

Because it’s a digital map, he can easily change it in future years if needed.

The farm faces a particular challenge with chilean needle grass, which can affect stock health as well as pelts and meat. Hamish believes the software could help them manage this problem better in future. “We have a policy that once an animal has gone on to certain blocks where the needle grass is, they only go off to get killed. Other stock do not go on to those blocks. The software can help us prove that, and that would give us more flexibility, for example with stock sales.

“We want to take charge of it and be able to say that with the right management strategy and evidence about what we’re doing, we should have more flexibility with the parts of the property that are not affected.”

In the meantime, he appreciates the flow of information that he’s getting on his computer about what is happening on the farm.

Want to see the online farm management software that helps you manage your trading lambs and with mapping for Farm Environment planning? Click below

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