Enhanced extension model for B+LNZ

Beef + Lamb New Zealand is changing up its extension delivery model, focusing on making a difference behind the farm gate and farmer learning, with a new small group offering set to roll out in 2025. General manager extension, Justine Kidd, explains what this will mean for farmers. Words Rebecca Greaves.

In Business6 Minutes
Justine Kidd

Learning in a small group farmer to farmer environment is the key to the new extension model industry body Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) will roll out to farmers in 2025.

General manager extension, Justine Kidd, outlined the planned changes to attendees at the AgInnovation conference in Palmerston North, saying the organisation is in the process of shifting its extension model, focusing on what works best for farmers to deliver the tools and resources needed to support them.

“It’s all about how we deliver on B+LNZ’s vision of “thriving sheep and beef farmers now and into the future.

“Foundational to this is our Farming Excellence priority, which is focused on enhancing productivity and profitability in a way that is sustainable.”

The new small groups will tackle two key areas – innovation groups addressing issues where we don’t have the answers yet and focus groups addressing topics that are more known, such as forage selection or budgeting and financial management. Groups will come together for 12 months to two years, depending on the topic, pooling their collective knowledge and learning from one another.

“We’re looking to do more of that smaller group farmer to farmer learning environment. The innovation group concept is about operating in a space where we don’t know all the answers at the moment, so bringing farmers together to innovate and problem solve to address some of the sticky challenges we are facing, then share the learnings. Things like how do we grow our productivity while ensuring our environmental stewardship is meeting targets and objectives?

“Some groups might be around people in the sector and people on farm, how do we change the way we engage with people working in our farming businesses and how do we keep people in the sector longer?”

The B+LNZ Extension team is working with B+LNZ’s Farmer Council to nut out the exact details, which has included finding names for the new groups, and the structure for their regional delivery.

Kidd stresses this new model will be in addition to its existing one-to-many model delivering field days, seminars and workshops. “That’s absolutely continuing and will be a pillar and foundation of what we do going forward. Giving farmers plenty of opportunity to access information and the chance to come together with other farmers in the ways that work best for them.”

She says the ‘why’ is about creating impact for farmers and supporting them to travel the road they have identified for their own business. “The whole piece around the B+LNZ strategy refresh and refocus is about being behind the farmgate with farmers. It’s recognising that farmers are the experts and that any onfarm change process for farmers is best done with other farmers.”

The new direction has been informed by research and feedback from the Red Meat Profit Partnership action network. B+LNZ spent two years administering the programme and undertook a review at its conclusion. “We have conclusive evidence that these well-structured and facilitated small groups result in increased productivity and profitability.”

A draft strategy and proposal were taken to the B+LNZ Farmer Council, who helped them refine their thinking.

“Farmers learning from farmers resonates over and over. I have been in this role for 12 months and I’ve spent the large majority of that time out there talking to farmers and listening to what they’re telling us.”

Kidd is fired up and excited about what is to come. “We are in the thick of building the detail and support resources and structures at the moment, for delivery in 2025. It feels like this has really landed with farmers. To have the backing of the board and their confidence in this approach is exciting. I do also feel the weight of responsibility to make sure this works for our farming community, too.”

Kidd paid tribute to the work done by the B+LNZ Farmer Council, as the heart and soul of B+LNZ. “They are an absolutely critical piece of the puzzle and they really are doing the mahi to bring together the delivery programme and the priorities they want to shift the dial on in each region.

“They are the taonga (treasure) of B+LNZ and the work they do on behalf of their communities and the time they give up to create value for farmers cannot be overstated.”