Global Agriculture

Australia: Nathan Saunders – adding value for dairy farmers

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01 June 2022, Australia: Livestock Production Advisor Nathan Saunders is far from a one trick pony.

With Scottsdale, Tasmania his home, Nathan gets to enjoy all that Tasmania has to offer in his role, consulting across the state with a wide range of producers. While he spends a good amount of time in cropping and livestock, his specialty – and passion – is dairy. Nathan provides advice and support for dairy producers looking to maximise the productivity of their farms through grazing management and animal health techniques, forward planning, and ensuring supply of the right product at the right time.

“My role involves having a real ‘whole of farm’ view and applying this to the work that I do with clients to get the most from their herd year-round,” says Nathan.

“I grew up on a small dairy farm so that’s my real passion.”

Dairy is currently enjoying a record farmgate milk price due to a culmination of factors. Tightening of supply from decreased domestic production combined with booming demand, is driving export value higher worldwide1. Australian dairy is in both high demand and fetching high prices, creating excellent opportunities for producers.

Nathan says that the current environment means achieving just a one percent growth in productivity can have a big impact on bottom line.

“Whether producers are exporting dairy cattle or producing milk, because the numbers are so large, by making a 1% increase in productivity we can achieve a sizeable improvement on profit,” says Nathan.

“A lot of what I do is putting in the work to establish whether something is worth carrying out. Doing the maths and testing can make sure that every activity is evidence-based.”

“Picking the right input and timing is key, but so is putting valuable information in front of farmers so they can make the right decision. Challenging them to do something new and showing them why.

“I always want to be that partner to their business – not selling to them but adding value.”
With optimism in the sector, there are also growing opportunities for dairy producers to explore how AgTech can make a difference to the bottom line and grow production for the sector.

“There are some exciting technologies emerging from the Thomas Elder Institute research site at Struan that I think are really promising, particularly in managing issues like labour shortages,” says Nathan.

“Automation, monitoring, data collection and whole farm imaging and 3D mapping is really promising.

AgTech will play an increasingly important role in farming businesses in the future, especially with audit accountability and labour shortages. Something like having sensors in grain silos means we can cut out the manual element and improve efficiency.”

While the industry is changing with greater corporatisation of farms and growing herd numbers, Nathan says that his approach to service remains on education and insights.

“How I treat each client is the same. I focus on getting reward for what I put in.”

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