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ARTICLES >> Working on your Business

Time Spent Off-Farm Most Profitable

Posted by Bestprac on Sep 05 2010

By Liz Guerin


Garry HanniganWhen you own and run a 50,000 hectare property with over 5000 head of sheep, 1000 goats and 50 cattle, sixteen weeks is a long time to be away. Yet for Wilcannia farmer, Garry Hannigan, this time away has been his most profitable ever.

Awarded a Nuffield scholarship in 2005, Garry undertook a group global study tour in 2006, followed by an individual tour looking at the export opportunities for organic lamb.

“Looking back, that year off farm was our most profitable ever – not only our most profitable year financially, but possibly the greatest personally as well” said Garry.

Part of the reason for this Garry says, was that for the first time in their lives they had to be completely organised.

“Time management wise, we had everything running like clockwork. Everything was written out and documented for example; when sheep were booked in, when wool and sheep were going to auction, when fencing contractors were coming in, and so on” Garry said.

In addition, they scheduled major projects to be undertaken in their absence to ensure that someone was always on property.

“My retired parents, who know the property better than anyone were on site, but then if anything major went wrong, they’d need to go and get someone else so we had the fencing contractor and a painter here at the same time” he said.

“We got more done in the lead up to going and in the actual 16 week period we were away, than ever before because we were so organised.”

Garry says that it took 5 or 6 months of hard planning and documenting strategies prior to leaving for the Nuffield tour, but that it has left a lasting legacy. High level organisation and structure is now a key characteristic of their business and has been ever since.

Having Garry’s wife, Tracy accompany him on the individual leg of the study tour has also been of benefit for the Hannigan’s, with a new level of motivation and set of shared experiences. “A lot of times, when one partner goes away they come back fully motivated and the partner that doesn’t go remains at the same level” he said. “The result is that the business doesn’t benefit as much as it should.”

With the main aim of the Nuffield Study tour being to look for opportunities to change future direction, the Hannigan’s feel that they not only achieved that goal, but also achieved the reassurance that their move into the organic lamb industry has been the right one.

“In 2006, we were fairly positive that we had between 5 and 10 good years of lamb ahead of us. We bought another property on the strength of it last year” said Garry. “We’ve been proven right. Sheep haven’t been better over the last few years which has reassured us that we are on the right track and that organics is an industry that is growing.”

Garry says that his Nuffield experience has introduced him to a fantastic network of motivated and passionate fellow farmers both overseas and domestically and enabled him to learn not only about his own area of interest, organic lamb, but also those of his fellow travellers.

“You learn a lot about other industries and that gives you an understanding of businesses and how they work” he said. “You actually come back a better business person because of what and who you have been exposed to.”

In terms of his special interest topic of organic lamb, Garry said that only a small percentage of Australian organic lamb is exported, but with the US and Japanese markets slowly developing, there is a real opportunity for Australian organics to establish regional branding once those export markets take off.

“With 60 to 70 percent of organic lamb originating from the rangelands, I think we have a hell of a story to tell – however until we can supply the domestic market 100% of the year and with the main supermarket buyers limiting branding, it is proving tricky.”

Garry believes that a positive attitude has always been part of his farming outlook, but participating in the Nuffield scholarship program has reassured him of his belief in his farming business and the importance of working to the best of your abilities.

“The Nuffield has been a great thing to do and sometimes, as in our case, the biggest bonus your business could have was the organisation and restructuring of your business to allow you the time away.”

Last changed: Feb 07 2012

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