Wastage on Farms

I don't want to be seen as a grumpy old man, but having just come back from The States and seen the wastage there, it has made me think about the wastage in New Zealand. I have discussed it with a number of people and it is clear that there are some serious issues around wastage.

Wastage is in all aspects of our farming business and our personal lives. Some examples may include:
  • Not ensuring that the cows are in calf and the downstream costs of that. This may happen when the cows are not being observed when they are on heat and/or not keeping adequate records.
  • Waste of feed by not utilising it properly. Examples of that might include feeding maize silage, etc when the grass is not being fully utilised first. (I met a consultant a while back that was thinking of calling his business 'Grass First'!)
  • Waste of bought-in feed by not having it properly fed to the cows and being trampled into the ground.
  • Do we have bigger tractors than we can really utilise? My understanding is that a diesel tractor should be worked at maximum revs and maximum utilisation of its power to run smoothly and efficiently, but we seem to be getting bigger and bigger tractors which seem to be doing less and less work.

Personal Accidents

Personal accidents are a waste. They waste time and money and cause a lot of heartache. We need to focus on reducing the number of accidents on farms. Accidents increase in number as we get closer to lunch time and to the end of the day.


Are we tarseal farmers? Do we just jump in the car and run into town for a variety of reasons, or could we co-ordinate everybody to have one trip to town? When petrol reaches $3 per litre will we still rush to town for everything? I think not.

Do we need to pick the children up from the school bus stop with a vehicle or can they walk or bike? Again a huge wastage. I did some calculations on the savings to our nation, where children used pushbikes rather than mum or dad running those short distances to pick them up. The savings in fuel ran into millions of dollars.


Do we have too much labour? Is there wastage there? In India and Pakistan the wastage is nothing. Everything is utilised. I heard a story about a woman in Africa whose sole possession was one pot, she used it to cook her rice to sell and earn enough money to feed herself. Someone stole her pot and ruined her life. This woman had so little, yet she was surviving.

Compliance Costs

This is another area where there is wastage. Councils won't make a decision about anything. They need a consultant's report about everything and consequently we are wasting a lot of time and money and effort to meet the requirements of the Resource Management Act. Now I don't doubt that it is a good thing but it needs to be streamlined. People need to be able to make decisions rather than all the wastage of time and energy.


Employees are another area of big wastage. By treating staff badly they are turned over every year, and they often leave the industry. What a waste! Changing staff and re-training costs you time and money, as well as intellectual property. You get them trained and then they disappear off your farm. Can we manage the relationships better and retain them for a number of years.


Wastage also occurs in the purchase of disposables. Do we buy too much spray and then leave some containers in the back of the shed half used or even unused? The same applies to detergent and pharmaceuticals for the animals. We purchase all this stuff and then it doesn't get used or gets left in the shed and ends up in the farm dump.


We buy bags of fertiliser for various reasons and then some of it doesn't end up on the farm, it goes hard in the corner of the shed. How many times do you see grass seed lying in farmers sheds with mouse holes in the bag and the grass seed running on the ground? It would be better to spread the grass seed on the ground at the time and not store it.

Vehicle Replacement

Do we really need new cars and new tractors when the existing machine will do just as well? Look at Signature Class vehicles where Toyota has identified refurbishing cars to a very high standard, back to new basically. Should we take our tractor into the local service centre, get them to rebuild it, repaint it and have it last another ten years?

I am personally going through the exercise of replacing my business vehicle at the moment. I look at the wastage in my business. One of my major expenses is a car. Do we lease a car for $1,500 per month? I get to drive a nice new car, it smells really nice and it has all the whizzmo gismos, but am I better to consider buying a $15,000 - $20,000 second-hand car and driving that? The saving is not only to me but it is to the nation and also to the world because we are not utilising so many resources.

Other Savings

Other savings back on the farm could include:
  • Once a day milking;
  • Not inducing because of the large loss of herd wastage;
  • Looking after our cows better and realising that they are very hardworking animals. A cow can walk 25,000kms in a lifetime, so are the races up to spec?
  • Are we losing cows with foot troubles because the races are in poor condition?
  • Do we take great care around calving to keep herd wastage to a minimum?


This philosophy on wastage is just a reminder to us all that we need to be vigilant and think about what we are doing. Wastage is across all facets of our lives and our farming business. I would imagine that we could all reduce our wastage by 10% without much effort. Not only would this saving impact on our bottom line but more than that, it's about saving resources on the planet. By not utilising so much raw material we are ensuring that the world is a better place for future generations to come. Surely that must be a priority to all of us.


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