Parsons: Sheep farming on the up
Time to take responsibility and move industry forward
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.’’
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.