Value for producers during the 16th Senwes Future Focus

From left to right: Sakkie van Zyl (Chairman of the Red Meat Producers Organisation), AC van Wyk (producer), Waldo van Niekerk (Chairman of the Free State Agriculture Young Farmer Committee), Louis Wessels (Chairman of the Agri NW Young Farmer Committee), Neels Fourie (producer) , Johan van der Walt (producer), JP Meintjes (producer), Francois Strydom (Chief Executive Officer of Senwes) and Jaco Minnaar (Chairman of Grain SA).

The action-filled day focused on the BIG 5 of agriculture. Five aspects which the modern producer should incorporate into his business in order to farm productively, efficiently and profitably.

Rev. Laurie Naudé from NG Meyerhof in Bothaville opened the day with a reading from Isaiah 43:1 “I have called you by name, you are Mine”, with the message that producers should live and farm their testimonies as believers, whether it rains or not or whether prices are low – everyone should grow where he/she was planted.

Senwes Chief Executive Officer, Francois Strydom, delivered the message to producers that we are at the starting blocks of a planting season and that the preparation may be excellent. However, if we do not turn up on the day and deal with the circumstances which face us, we cannot be successful.

The question on the day was: “Do you still use outdated farming methods, or do you struggle with farming debt while being unable to keep up with technological advancements? Hence the focus on the 5 core aspects, the BIG 5 of agriculture, namely: (1) strategy, (2) human resources, (3) management information systems, (4) partnerships and (5) finances.

Jaco Minnaar, Grain SA chairman and non-executive director of Senwes, facilitated the day and shared his knowledge regarding the 5 core aspects with producers. “The producer who focuses on the opportunities is the one who will prosper. It does not necessarily go about farming bigger, but about farming better.” Jaco also remarked that: “Measurable objectives and beacons determine the direction which you wish to take. Strategy is a projection of your route, with highs and lows. Resources represent your vehicle for this route while your management information systems are the GPS, which indicates the route to be taken. Partners are your passengers, who shorten the trip and financial management determines how far you have travelled and serves as your measurement instrument.”

Senwes approached a few experienced producers in the North West and Free State in an attempt to understand how they approach one or more of the said aspects in their farming operations. The first stop was with Sakkie van Zyl, chairman of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation, on the farm Rietfontein, where he gave a holistic overview of the 5 aspects. Sakkies view is the following: “Strategy is the roadmap to your vision and the goals you need to achieve serve as beacons on this road. A challenge is to explain the vision on grassroots level, in order to create understanding for what you are doing why you are doing it. In addition it is important to find a good partner for your business and to be a good partner. In order to be successful, your foundation has to be solid and you have to be able to see things through and to persevere.”

The second stop was with AC van Wyk, who shared his insights regarding strategy with us. AC’s point of departure is that one should start with the end goal in mind and one should know why you formulate the strategy in order to move into the right direction. “Formulate a strategy which deals with what you like, and share it with your key personnel. We very often neglect priorities and focus on crises. Rather think in an analytical way, analyse the situation and prioritise. Your strategy must be better than the external factors which impact on your business. Follow a strategy with an acceptable risk profile and think about where you want to go – it will make it so much easier to decide about today.”

Neels Fourie from the farm Avondster in the Schweizer-Reneke district explained more about his approach to his human resources and indicated that the biggest challenges are legislative rules and regulations, the way in which things are done on the farm and the human factor. “If you as employer can move in and out of your business without a negative impact on quality or productivity, then you are moving in the right direction. An employee who differs from you, is someone who is starting to show interest in his job, someone who thinks about why he does what he does. Lastly, consistency in respect of legislation is critical – that which applies today, has to apply tomorrow and next year.”

In terms of management information systems, Johan van der Walt from One Tree farm shared with us how he manages to make information relating to his business, work for him and he is of the opinion that it should facilitate operational aspects, management and decision-making. “Your information must be real-time, it must increase your productivity and improve your financial position. During difficult times your information systems enable you to act proactively and to make decisions. There is a perception that technology is very expensive, but it should not discourage you. Learn from someone who has already implemeted it.”

JP Meintjes from the farm Kruispan near Viljoenskroon expanded on the importance of partnerships  with one’s input financier, seed and fertiliser agent and grain and mechanisation marketer, and explained the importance thereof. “Enter into long-term partnerships to ensure that the people involved get to know you and will know that you will meet your obligations during difficult times. A good relationship with a partner is based on integrity and trust.”

Lastly Herman du Preez from the farm Grysfontein near Lichtenburg, placed financial management into perspective and indicated that a farmer should be balanced and diversified. Cost management is one of the most difficult aspects to manage since the agricultural sector is so volatile. A budget and proper bookkeeping programme are critical management instruments with which to evaluate your situation. Scenario management programmes are definitely also an aspect which you should have available for the difficult times. A plan B and C for the different components of your farming operations is of the utmost importance. One should look at rand and cents – you cannot base your farming operations on emotion. To measure is to know. Design systems, implement it and stick with it.”

The multimedia presentations of each of the producers will be available shortly should you wish to watch it again.

Demonstrations were also held on the day by Senwes Equipment, exhibitions by various agencies, a spit braai, various prizes and a show by guest artist Appel. Farming was at the order of the day and all and sundry benefitted from the advice on how to apply better farming practices. See you again in 2020!

Enquiries: Francois Strydom
Group Chief Executive
Tel: +27 18 464 7115