SECURING a more stable workforce and improving labour efficiency are just some of the improvements Western Australian sheepmeat producers Marcus and Shannon Sounness have been able to achieve in the third quarter of the inaugural Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Challenge competition.
The Sounness family, who run 3000 hectares of mixed cropping and 3000 breeding ewes at Amelup, have worked with their MLA Challenge mentor, Rob Warburton, this quarter to improve human resource management within their family, and for other employees in their farm business.
“It is vital for us to have a stable workforce before we can expand our livestock enterprise,” said Mr Sounness.
“This quarter we have been developing clear roles in the farm business, based on our individual skills, bringing the whole family on board with the business plan, working for the same outcomes, and having an understanding of our farm succession planning.
“We looked at labour efficiency in our operations and made changes such as installing laneway fencing, which has already made a difference, as Shannon can move the stock far more easily on her own.
“We then focused on renovating our farmhouse so it is presentable, liveable and functional. We are now ready for a new, long term staff member, who we will recruit after seeding.”
The Sounnesses, along with five other producers across Australia, are competing to improve efficiency and productivity in their farming operations over one year in the MLA Challenge.
The other competitors are beef producers Andrew and Megan Miller from Windorah, Queensland (who lead the third quarter of the MLA Challenge), followed by sheep producers John and Annie Ramsay from Bothwell, Tasmania; beef producers Matthew and Angela Pearce from Adelong, NSW; beef producers Bill and Georgia Wilson from Edi Victoria, and beef producers Lachlan and Anna Hughes from Dulacca Queensland.
All six families have seen improvements in their businesses since joining the MLA Challenge due to improving their skills and using tools and evidence as the basis of planning decision-making.
Kojonup farmer Mr Warburton said that given the current challenge for agriculture of attracting and retaining long term, stable workers, the work done by the couple during the quarter is a valuable investment in the future.
“Finding the right employee for a farm business is critical, especially if you want to expand – I advise people to look for the right person first, and tailor the job to fit them,” he said.
“Marcus and Shannon urgently need to find and keep new staff. A task like fixing up the farm accommodation might seem minor, but it can be critical to making an attractive workplace.”
MLA’s general manager Livestock Production Innovation, Peter Vaughan, said that the third quarter of the MLA Challenge has seen the six families make the most of the information, tools and resources available to them, along with the advice of their mentors, to plan and make business decisions.
The MLA Challenge is supported by Woolworths, Westpac Agribusiness and QantasLink. For more information about the MLA Challenge, the six farming families involved and the resources they are using, visit www.mla.com.au/challenge.