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  • Writer's pictureWayne

Let’s discuss mistakes. Grab a beverage.

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

A little background. In my work career, which started in the Department of Agriculture in Western Australia, my first research job was to find out how to get farmers to achieve >4t/ha wheat crops along the south coast of WA. I have a newspaper article that mocks me about my research and recommendations how to achieve 4-7t/ha wheat crops. I used it a lot in my talks :-). It was considered impossible, even in a perfect year to achieve those yields. We laugh at it now, but at that time, the thinking was “if it were possible, everyone or at least someone would have achieved it”. As those who have heard me speak know my answer to that: everyone was making the same mistakes. Evvveryyyyyyyone !!!!

My God-given nature is to push boundaries. My mind rarely flicks back to the past, but focusses on what is possible in the future. Mistakes are learning opportunities. If I don’t make a mistake, I haven’t pushed hard enough and there would be lessons I haven’t learnt yet. You don’t know what you don’t know and I am driven to know what is behind the veil.

There are people who do everything to avoid making a mistake, but unwittingly make mistake after mistake missing out on profits and opportunities.

Look back in history for a moment. Did anyone ever make an earth changing invention by being so careful as to never make a mistake? Of course not. It is those who push and test and think outside the status quo of a way to do things better.

It is human nature to knock something different, until it is proven correct and it is so obvious, and then we usually say to ourselves, why didn’t we see that earlier etc?

Now to Caluka Farms. I will make a mistake and find new problems others may not have found because they haven’t pushed as hard. I do not mind that as they are learning experiences to become even more profitable and efficient.

Caluka now has a great advisory panel and great support from the NAB who know this and are removing every hurdle possible to let me get the farm(s) to maximum profit as quickly as possible.

My thoughts and plans are that after a few years of the farm(s) being at maximum production and making very high profits, any new director would be a fool to direct the farm back to the less profitable ways of farming livestock. My aim is for the farms to not need me and is why it is crucial I train managers and staff how to do what I find so easy, and to have people in the team with much better skills in the areas I am weak. We have four on the team so far, and will be growing quickly now. I am very excited about the future. We have such great times ahead of us.

My aim in our first year was to take a very run down, infertile and highly acidic farm to carry as many sheep as possible to show the shareholders what is possible. Mission achieved, though it was still far below where it could have been. Have a look at the photo’s of this blog in 2019, our first season. 4,600 sheep with pasture galore and we had turned off >2,000 trade sheep, and we were still very understocked - on 185ha on farm that was still very acidic and infertile.

Since then you know what happened with a financier pulling support from us and how long it took to get financial support again. But now thanks to Paul McKenzie, Dom Papaluca, Sarah Lang and the NAB, we are rapidly heading towards achieving Caluka’s productivity and production targets.

Based on the value of the assets we have, we’ve gone from a low of ~$27/share last year when we had to sell ewes to stay afloat, to within 12 months it is now ~$60/share. But as you can see if you have been here on the farm, or seen on these blogs, we have immense upside in what we can achieve. The advisory team are working so hard to do that and we will be able to get into the higher gears very soon.

We are at over 40 DSE/ha all the time now and rising every month as we have more sheep on the ground and lambs are growing. The new batch of lambs by the way are the best we’ve had so far. Hardly a runt amongst them, good growth rates (still a long way to go on this one), and they look beautiful. I am really happy how it is coming together now, but even more excited at what is ahead of us. If you have been here, you can see for yourselves how easy we are achieving 40 DSE and can increase that substantially. We have only just begun pushing to the goal.

You can all do your sums and know that with 45 lambs/ha/year being fed off the pastures is extremely profitable. But when you are here, you will see how we can go past that goal. 60 lambs/ha/year? Yeah I think that is achievable when we get the pastures better fed, we have the better genetics, and our management is better to cope with such large numbers of sheep on the property. I expect to have over 10,000 head of sheep on the property by 2024 and look forward to seeing how far we can go on 185ha and rainfall.

But back to the “mistake” fear. Because of my focusing on pastures first, sheep second, the high rates of lime, lush pastures, high protein etc, we’ve had some issues with too much molybdenum causing copper deficiencies, and the recent one of too much protein when we gave the wethers and ram lambs a few lupins to munch on.

I don’t mind these problems in the bigger scheme of things. If we had normal pastures at lower stocking rates and gave some lupins at the same timing, we probably would not have seen a problem. In fact, it probably would have improved growth rates of the sheep. But now we are wiser.

By pushing hard, we will come across new and unexpected problems. That is OK. It is how we learn to do things even better. It will always remain; pastures first, sheep second. We cannot carry the livestock numbers unless we grow the pasture. I think the whole livestock industry needs to change to this mind set. It is cheaper to grow pasture than hand feed, and there is so much pasture we can grow that is currently missed. Just think of what would happen if every paddock was fed like a hay/silage paddock.

We will have more formal days next year where we will show people around the farm and for a little while, I am happy to converse with anyone wishing to join the shareholder team. If you can see the profits we are heading towards and would like to join us, come and chat to me. It is an exciting journey.

In the same way it was so obvious to me how we could achieve 7t/ha wheat crops when no one had achieved 2t/ha on the south coast, it is just as obvious to me how we can make >$7,000/ha with sheep. I think it is really easy to see when you stand in the paddocks and see it first hand. Cashflows at 45 lambs/ha/year x $120 is a very exciting profitable cashflow. Later next year when we start selling excess ewes, and if the price of the genetics remains at $300 or above, well, shareholders are going to be really, really happy.

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