Leveson and Vicki Gower

Introducing IT systems into Leveson and Vicki Gower's farm operation has led to an overhaul of the whole business and created more opportunities for off-farm activities.

The past year has seen some major changes for the King Country couple, as they re-evaluated every aspect of their 1416ha (800ha effective) sheep and beef business Stockland Trading Ltd, and sought to put systems in place that would allow the farm to operate in their absence.

After many years of farming – and with a busy 11 year-old-son – Vicki and Leveson were at a stage when they would like to be able to physically leave the farm and pursue outside business and recreational interests while still running a successful farm operation.

Vicki, who is a chartered accountant, was keen to integrate a cloud-based farm management system into their business and jumped at the opportunity to do this through their processor, Greenlea Premier Meats involvement in the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) programme.

The timing could not have been better, with Greenlea approaching Leveson to be part of its RMPP programme at a time the couple were looking at the best way to systemise their farm.

Although Vicki has a strong background in management and accounting software, it was the support offered through RMPP that really appealed.

Focused on using IT-based farm management systems to improve farm analysis and drive greater production, they have adopted both Farm IQ and Farmax software packages. These are being used in conjunction with an accountancy package, a farm consultant and farm environment plan.

Most importantly, these management tools and systems are part of a business development model that Vicki is developing for the farm.

Having spent 20 years helping retail businesses use a simple four-stage model to develop and grow, Vicki saw potential in adapting that model for their own – and potentially other – family-farming businesses.

She explains that it's about starting with an end goal or objective and using the four points to develop a strategy that will help achieve that end goal, which for them is the ability to ensure the farm remains fully functioning in their absence. They also wanted to focus on producing a better product for their customers, which is growing high quality red meat to meet the market specifications of Greenlea Meats.

Vicki says when examining their business, it became clear that they needed to simplify their whole operation. The couple had been running a complex livestock policy, which including running breeding, finishing and trading stock along with dairy support.

It took two to three months to determine what their future stocking policy would be, and this is where the suite of software tools was so useful. It meant the couple were making decisions based on objective data and information.

They made the decision to reduce ewe numbers and sell their breeding cows, which wasn't easy as the family had run a breeding herd for 53 years.

They have built a more efficient and environmentally friendly cell-based bull finishing system and this has made day-to-day management more streamlined. The new stocking policy came into effect on May 1 and Vicki says it is now a simple system which Leveson runs with the help of a 16-year-old worker.

"In a way it's like paint by numbers."