DairyBase is a great tool to help farmers analyse and benchmark their performance for decision making, writes Carolyn Nicholson, DairyNZ DairyBase Extension specialist.

Looking for ways to take your farm business to the next level?

Knowing where you’ve been, where you are now and where you want to be is crucial and knowing how you compare to others makes that data even more useful.

This is where DairyNZ’s DairyBase can help. DairyBase is a database of standardised financial and physical information from dairy farms across New

Zealand, from Northland to Southland. But DairyBase is much more than just benchmarking.

The data can be used to inform a variety of decisions, as a group of farmers in Matamata have found.

The Matamata Piako Three (MP3) Rivers Trust have used DairyBase to help improve three key areas onfarm – people, the planet and profit.

The group, formed by farmers Sam Owen, Richard Luxton and Brian Steele, has held a number of workshops over the last three years to help farmers in the region get the most out of their DairyBase reports. During some of the workshops, farmers were spilt into groups of sharemilkers, contract milkers, and owners to compare their farm numbers and look to where they could make improvements.

MP3 has been made possible through funding from the farmers themselves, DairyNZ, as well as the Waikato Regional Council, ANEXA, BNZ and Diprose Miller.

I spoke to Matamata farmer Matthew Zonderop, one of about 30 farmers involved in the group, to find out how DairyBase has helped him.

Matthew has used DairyBase for 10 years and says it’s helped him go from a contract milker to a 50/50 sharemilker.

He has used DairyBase to analyse key performance indicators such as animal health, wages, farm working expenses and cropping against other farms. This helped him to understand what areas he could be doing better in.

One key area he identified for improvement was returns on his livestock sales. After some research, he decided to cross his Friesian heifers to a Murray Grey bull to increase the returns on his calves by diversifying into the beef market.

“For a Jersey calf you’re lucky if you get $30. By using a Murray Grey bull across our Friesians, we’ll get around $80 for the heifers and $120 for the bulls. That change alone has increased our stock income dramatically.”

By using DairyBase Matthew has also managed to get efficiencies in his farm working expenses. He encourages more farmers to give DairyBase a go.

“It helps you identify what you’re doing well and where you can improve. “You can’t track what you don’t measure. It’s as simple as that.”

Matthew says DairyBase also helped break down possible barriers between banks, consultants and accountants because you’ve got credible, independent data to show them.

Fellow MP3 member Georgie Cameron has also found DairyBase valuable, but in a different way. She used it when considering a 50/50 sharemilking job to identify what areas could be improved on the 420-cow farm she and her partner took-up.

“If you’re looking at a 50/50 sharemilking job, with DairyBase you’re able to see what’s the average sharemilker spend on animal health or breeding expenses and you’re able to ask specific questions during your interview.”

Prior to joining MP3, she had never used DairyBase, but says she is now a convert. Georgie, a rural manager at ANZ, says anyone going into business should compare before taking the plunge and DairyBase helps make this process easier.

More than 2500 farms participate in DairyBase, providing strong benchmarking information for farmers across the country.

The longer farms remain in the database the more valuable the information will be for identifying trends and assisting farmers making onfarm decisions.

And the more people who join DairyBase the better it is for everyone, as it makes the comparisons targeted and relevant

to your region. If you’re keen to find out more about DairyBase, or are interested in joining, visit dairynz.co.nz/dairybase.

  • For more information on the MP3 group check out the Matamata Piako Dairy Push Group Facebook page.