Get to know Anna Taylor, Farmer Services Manager

Get to know Anna Taylor, Farmer Services Manager

1 July 2022

"Farmers are at the heart of everything we do," says Anna Taylor.

She's talking about the team of Farm Source Canterbury, Tasman and Marlborough Area Managers, who collectively strive to retain and grow milk supply by maintaining strong relationships with their shareholder base, whilst also calling on competitor farms in their geographical area. "To do this we need to deliver excellent service and provide valuable on-farm solutions that meet our farmers' needs. It's part of the Fonterra strategy that focuses on New Zealand milk."

Anna is the Farmer Services Manager for the Canterbury/Tasman/Marlborough region, which stretches from Oamaru to the top of the South Island. She looks after its seven Area Managers, who in turn support between 150-180 farms each. They provide a vast range of key farmer-centric information such as a tailored Farm Insights Report that gives insights into milk (SCC and milking efficiency) and animals (heat stress, mastitis and lameness). These insights use information collected with the Farm Dairy Records alongside production and milk quality data to highlight risks and opportunities in each farm's business.

"The Area Managers take these along with them on their visits to discuss with the farmer," Anna says.

Her role brings plenty of challenges - for her and the farmers she and her team help support. These challenges include regulatory requirements, farm expansion, adverse weather events and farm sales and succession. "My team is the first port of call for all of these," Anna says. "Despite the strong Farmgate milk price for the season, farmers are still grappling with the rising costs of inputs, unfavourable weather, lack of labour and variable quality of feed."

"Culling of cows is a challenge in Canterbury due to staffing issues at the works as a result of Covid, therefore farmers are hanging on to their stock for longer. This means having to feed cows for longer at a time when the cost of feed has increased. Winter grazing is now $35-38/per head per week."

Staffing issues on-farm are ongoing, due to the size and scale of Canterbury farms. "This has meant an increased workload for people on-farm, and it can become quite stressful."

Regulations can also pose challenges. "Due to the higher production under irrigation and the rates of nitrogen applied, and due to the more stringent environmental regulations in Canterbury, farmers are challenged to change their farming practices," Anna says.

Managers offer advice to farmers, and provide reports that show farmers ways to bring nitrogen levels down. "We also benchmark against neighbouring farms to provide an understanding of what can be achieved and identify where efficiencies can be gained."

To prepare for upcoming challenges and minimise stress, Anna and her team have been working with DairyNZ to combat the shortage of dairy workers. "You will have seen the advert on TV recently aiming to attract more dairy workers to the industry," she says.

"Regarding unexpected weather events such as snow, our farmers hold extra feed on hand. Farm Source stores are also offering price certainty over the next few months on various products, so farmers can control some input costs. We're also rewarding all loyalty through store spend in the form of Farm Source Reward Dollars, which creates a connection with the co-op - even though some of these farmers don't supply milk to us, everyone is welcome."

Among other things, she and her team also keep their farmers up to date with innovations (such as methane-reducing trials) and new rules and regulations, help them with share compliance and sustainability, advise on milk quality issues, and provide Fonterra business updates.

For Anna's farmers, key focuses for the next few months include preparing for calving (including animal health), setting budgets for the new season, planning for 2023's winter crops, deferred maintenance being done now and new staff training.

To contact your Area Manager for support, phone 0800 656 568 or call them directly*.