Par­sons: Sheep farm­ing on the up

Time to take re­spon­si­bil­ity and move in­dus­try for­ward

Newslink - - FARM - By DIANE BISHOP

Sheep farm­ers can look for­ward to ex­cit­ing times ahead. That’s ac­cord­ing to Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair­man-in­wait­ing James Par­sons, who de­liv­ered a glass-half-full pre­sen­ta­tion at the fi­nal field day for the East­ern South­land mon­i­tor farm re­cently. ‘‘Glob­ally, sheep meat pro­duc­tion is de­clin­ing. ‘‘And those who stay in the game can ex­pect ex­cit­ing times ahead,’’ he said. Par­sons, who is cur­rently the B+LNZ North­ern North Is­land di­rec­tor, said af­ter a few good years farm­ers were now grap­pling with lower lamb prices and that had been a ‘‘kick in the guts’’. The key to achiev­ing bet­ter re­turns was to smooth out the com­plex sup­ply chain by re­duc­ing the num­ber of mid­dle men, he said. ‘‘We will never get rid of vo­latil­ity al­to­gether, but we can man­age it bet­ter.’’ Par­sons, who is ex­pected to be ap­pointed chair­man of B+LNZ fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Mike Petersen in March 2014, did not be­lieve in­creas­ing the price of lamb to con­sumers was the an­swer to im­proved farmer re­turns. ‘‘Con­sumers pay more for lamb than any other pro­tein. ‘‘But I do be­lieve there is an op­por­tu­nity to add value to the lesser cuts.’’ China had now sur­passed the United King­dom as New Zealand’s big­gest lamb mar­ket but there was a risk of be­com­ing over-re­liant on the key Asian mar­ket, Par­sons said. ‘‘If our com­peti­tors are send­ing lamb to China as well there will be gaps left in other coun­tries and we need to look at them.’’ Par­sons said im­proved mar­ket ac­cess for New Zealand pro­duce would re­sult in more diver­si­fied mar­kets and re­duced com­pe­ti­tion among ex­porters. He said there was a new gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers emerg­ing that were more ed­u­cated and busi­ness-fo­cused. They were us­ing in­te­grated farm soft­ware, adopt­ing bet­ter risk man­age­ment strate­gies, more ac­cu­rate at fore­cast­ing the weather and us­ing bench­mark­ing tools. Par­sons be­lieved the dif­fer­ence be­tween top and bot­tom farm­ers was not knowl­edge, but the dis­ci­pline to im­ple­ment the knowl­edge. ‘‘A lot of farm­ers will go to a field day and they might think an idea is good but they won’t im­ple­ment it.’’ He said it was im­por­tant for farm­ers to be ac­count­able in their busi­nesses and sur­round them­selves with a team of ex­perts such as a good farm con­sul­tant, and do the ba­sics well. Par­sons said farm­ers needed to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their sit­u­a­tion and stop blam­ing the weather, the ex­change rate and meat com­pa­nies. ‘‘We’ve got a blame cul­ture and we need to push against that.’’

Photo: DIANE BISHOP/FAIR­FAX NZ 628605984-

Pos­i­tive: Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair­man-in-wait­ing James Par­sons, left, and Beef + Lamb New Zealand South­ern South Is­land di­rec­tor Leon Black at the fi­nal field day for the East­ern South­land mon­i­tor farm at Glen­ham.

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