Farmax

Simon James

A lecturer at university recently told me that Farmax is the most useful thing I will learn at Lincoln. Farmers tend to concentrate on jobs worth $20/hr and neglect the strategic management of their business, sometimes referred to as the "$1,000/hr job." Farmax is for farmers who want to maximise profitability through creating the best system possible for their property.

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Farmax is a simulator designed for New Zealand farming systems and has software for dairy, sheep, beef and deer farms. The software accurately models farm production based on stock numbers and feed supply from pasture and supplements. A financial budget and monthly cash flow is automatically generated based on expected income and expenses. Expenses can also be manually entered with actual farm data. Milk payouts and carcass schedule prices can also be altered. The level of production is calculated by the software and can be altered by making changes to the farm system.

 The strategic management value from Farmax comes from comparing different land use scenarios based on gross margin per hectare and per kilogram of dry matter. There is an infinite number of scenarios that can be modelled. This could be growing a new forage or cash crop, wintering stock off-farm, buying in feed, applying nitrogen or introducing a new stock class. The table below is an example of the gross margin returns from adding a bull beef enterprise onto a sheep and beef breeding operation. In this scenario, the beef breeding cows were replaced with weaned bull calves purchased in late spring and sold at 17 months of age. Farmax calculated the gross margin would increase by $298/ha or 3.4 cents/kg DM.

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The results predicted by the software have been proven to be accurate when compared to actual farm performance. Farmax gives farmers confidence to make decisions, for example, should extra feed be purchased during a drought or low milk payout seasons.

 This scenario comparison feature is only available on Farmax Professional Dairy ($125/month) and Farmax Professional (sheep and beef) which costs $141.67/month. A basic version of the software is available called Farmax Feed Wedge (dairy) and Farmax Lite (Sheep and beef), which both cost $24.60/month. As implied in the name, the Feed Wedge tool is a feed budgeting tool based on measured pasture covers. It is quite an advanced feed wedge with the ability to forecast the effect that growing different forage crops, applying nitrogen and changing rotation length will have on pasture cover. Similarly, Farmax Lite is purely a feed budgeting tool. Pasture covers are forecasted based on stock policies, nitrogen applications and supplementary feed.

 FarmTools Dairy includes all the features of the Feed Wedge tool and has additional features such as predicting milk production, profitability, condition score and response to supplements. This costs $83.33/month which is less than the Professional version as it does not have the same level of detail as the scenario comparisons. FarmTools (sheep and beef) is $141.67/month and has similar function to FarmTools Dairy with predictions of production and profitability. The price is the same as the Professional version, but is less complex to use. If farmers prefer to use one of the simplified versions, their consultant can use the same Farmax file and run it through their Professional version. This makes it faster for the consultant to compare different scenarios as farm data doesn’t have to be re-entered.

 Overall, there is significant potential for farmers to increase profitability through improving their farm system. Have a look at the farmer testimonials