Accelerating Change has recently formed an Agronomy Network for the Murray region bringing together agronomists and others working in the technical feedbase sector with dairy industry professionals and researchers. The Agronomy Network meet in a series of technical workshops focused on issues that have the potential to assist farmers increase their efficiency in feed and irrigation management.
Why an Agronomy Network?
A key learning of Accelerating Change is that the commercial service sector play a critical role in driving innovation and facilitating change in dairy feedbase systems. Many agronomists and other service providers face similar challenges and opportunities in their work supporting farmers to develop profitable businesses in a changing environment. With changing access to and cost of water, and variability and volatility in climate and commodity markets, dairy farmers are increasingly reviewing their feedbase system and looking at what step changes they might need to make to respond to these profit drivers.
To do this, farmers are increasingly drawing on the service sector for specialised technical knowledge for support. By using an agronomist to help plan and manage their agronomic program, dairy farmers can be supported to achieve optimum performance of pastures, crops and natural resources; and improve the information guiding their decision-making around feedbase management.
With this in mind, Murray Dairy and Accelerating Change have identified an opportunity to develop the Agronomy Network to strengthen relationships across the feedbase sector.The Agronomy Network brings agronomists and others together to:
- discuss and work collaboratively on supporting feedbase transformation in the region
- identify opportunities for improving feedbase efficiencies in dairying
- fill any current knowledge gaps in the feedbase space
- connect the commercial and research agronomy sectors, and
- highlight the value that service providers can offer our industry.
Workshop 1: Change Management, Communication and Decision-Making
The first Agronomy Network meeting was held in Echuca in September with a focus on change management, farmer decision making and client engagement. For agronomists, helping clients in times of change can be challenging, especially when cash is tight, resources such as water are limited, and the weather is unpredictable (i.e. the year we've just had!). But in these times it's critical that farmers are effectively supported to make informed decisions to maximise the benefits from each investment they make.
The workshop was facilitated by Jeanette Long, of AgConsulting Co., who has worked with many service providers in the grains industry to develop technical, business and people skills. Jeanette presented participants with a range of techniques to better understand the attitudes, values and motivations that drive decision-making, and the behaviours that reflect these. The group worked through strategies for working with clients in stressful conditions and gathered ideas on communication, influencing and advising. A focus of the day was the importance of effective listening and communication in order to properly understand farmers’ goals and attitudes before providing technical solutions.
Participants said that these techniques were useful to their day-to-day work and the group will catch up on how some of the strategies have been used in the next meeting. Some key learnings and take-home messages from the day are captured below.
To learn more about communication and engagement techniques and influencing farmer decisions, check out this really useful article by Ag Consulting Co on Understanding farmer decision making and adoption behaviour.
GRDC's Grain & Graze project also has some excellent resources on making more informed decisions.
The next Agronomy Network meeting will be held in Echuca on Friday 9th December. The focus will be on important research for the region in irrigation and agronomy from Agriculture Victoria. To RSVP or put yourself on the Agronomy Network mailing list please contact Amy Fay, ph: 0400 911 286, email: firstname.lastname@example.org