18 October 2018

Data visibility in a diversified operation

A late start of the season

Peter Ettridge, together with his father Tom and stockman James Roberts, farms around 1,880 hectares just west of Frankland River in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, part of which is leased land. The 2018 crops are later than usual as decent rain did not fall until June. Despite this, Peter’s crops are looking very good at the moment and the paddocks are so wet that spraying is currently done by air. An advantage of having late crops, especially wheat, is that the heavy frosts mid-September didn’t do as much damage as they did to more mature barley and canola crops in the area.

Technology use on Kookaroo

Peter plants his crops with a Bourgault 88100/2200 planter/seed cart combination and uses a 7,000 liter, 120 ft tow-behind Hardi sprayer, unless high rainfall dictates the use of aerial equipment, like is currently the case. Peter harvests his own crops with a JD 680S and all his equipment is fitted with JD 2630 display screens. For information and data flows in all different aspects of his farm, Peter uses Agworld. Peter: “Agworld is my main tool, I look at it every day; I’d find it very difficult if I didn’t have it now.” This year for example Peter is doing a trial with applying two different types of lime on a paddock: “I marked the trial areas in Agworld, which makes it really easy to see where I applied which kind of lime; it’s a good way to track this kind of information.”

A Diversified farming operation

On the Ettridge’s farm, consisting of home block Kookaroo and several nearby blocks, around 1,300 hectares are cropped in a rotation of wheat, canola, barley and lupins. 160 hectares are planted to Blue Gum trees on a 24-year lease agreement through Managed Investment Schemes (MIS). Wood from Blue Gum trees is mainly used for paper and wood chips, but the second harvest of the trees is coming up in the next few years, after which the tree-stubs will be removed and the paddock will be turned back into pasture. A further 20 hectares are planted to wine grapes. The Cab Sav, Shiraz, Semillon and Merlot grapes from these vines are sold to local wineries each year.

Stockman James takes care of the 5,300 head Merino sheep flock that roam the property; they graze both the vineyard part of Kookaroo some parts of the year, as well as pasture paddocks. Kookaroo also boasts a 10 pen, 1,500 head feedlot for sheep which is used to increase weight gain for lambs and get them ready for processing; sheep are generally fed a combination of both grain and hay. By using a feedlot, James is able to create a stable and predictable supply of lambs for the farm’s clients, which allows him to sell his sheep at a premium. Tom Ettridge remarks: “By having a very diversified operation, we are less susceptible to price drops in certain commodities such as wool, meat or specific crops. Having a wide range of activities does make our operation a bit more complicated, but from an income and cash flow perspective it is definitely preferable for us”

Communication via Agworld

Frankland Rural agronomist Tim Trezise provides agronomy services to Peter and Agworld is their platform of communication. Peter: “At the beginning of each season I sit with Tim and together we put the budgets together. Tim creates the templates on his computer and everything automatically syncs through to me. Throughout the season, all of his recommendations come to me via Agworld, which means I have them with me on my phone, wherever I may be on my farm. It’s great that I can take recommendations from my agronomist and turn them into my own records whilst making any amendments to product, rate etc. that I need to. As the season progresses, I can always see where we are at in comparison to the plans we devised at the beginning of the season and what we are spending compared to what we had budgeted. At the end of each season, Tim and I sit together for a post-season analysis where we see what went well and what can be improved.”

All important information easily accessible

Next to communicating with his agronomist and working out his budgets, actuals and plans on Agworld, Peter also uses Agworld to track other critical farm information: “Rainfall is probably one of my favourite features in Agworld. When it became available last year, I even entered a couple of years of retrospective data; the bar graph makes it so easy to view all information I need at a glance! I also use the chemical label and SDS’s feature a lot; I now no longer have to physically print these labels and SDS’s and have them available whenever I need them, wherever I am on the farm. I will also enter my harvest records in Agworld this year, which I haven’t done previously.” Peter has been using Agworld for nearly 6 years and comments: “The more Agworld gets developed, the more I use it. This year for example I started using the costing part of Agworld more intensively. I am also very excited about some of the features that are about to be released to us, like NDVI imagery for example, it saves me needing a third party app.” About working with the Agworld team in Perth, Peter adds: “Support is very quick, especially the in-app support. It’s good that the team at Agworld can fix things on their end and sync it through to me in seconds.”

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