Working with several hundred farming groups across a long period of time has increased my resolve on a preferred way of learning for most farmers.
Seeing is believing, which underpins the learning.
Last week I was invited to attend the first day of a Lifetime Ewe Management group in the Heytesbury, Vic, region.
This area is best known for dairying but poor returns in that industry in the past had dairy after dairy shut down and in some instances the farmers have turned to sheep, seeking greater profitability.
The area receives in excess of 1000 millimetres of annual rainfall and this presents great animal health challenges, regardless of the industry.
The eight participants in the Lifetime Ewe group originally came from very diverse backgrounds but they were all young farmers having a "red hot" go.
From my perspective, it was one of the best extension activities I had attended in my long career.
The group won the jackpot as they had leading prime lamb producer Tim Leeming as their trainer and mentor.
Tim practices what he espouses and has the figures and performance to back up what he is doing.
It was interesting to note half of the group had university degrees, yet they were very open about their lack of knowledge of many of the important aspects of running sheep.
Visiting each of the five farms was a highlight for the group. Condition scoring different breeds of sheep, inspecting a range of pastures and facilities and doing feed budgets meant the day was full of variety and challenge.
The day began at 8.30am and concluded at 7pm and the group did not want to go home.
This was great testament to Tim's engaging style of communication.
The prime lamb industry is such an exciting industry to be in and it was so good to see this matched by the participants enthusiasm.
Quite often when attending a day for farmers, people go along intending to learn one thing but end up learning a lot of "unintended stuff" as well.
Farming groups are excellent for networking and it can be later in life that someone draws on the ideas of another farmer they networked with many years earlier.
One observation I made in my early career was that too many farmers come to a field day or seminar without a pen and paper.
Most like to sit and digest what they are hearing but I still believe a pen and notebook should be in a farmer's pocket at all times - we can not remember everything.
Still today, I find a significant number come unarmed with the basic tools to aid their learning.
It was interesting to note that one member of the new LTEM group also ran a fleet of 12 helicopters, running joy flights along the Great Ocean Road, and another was running a live cattle export business.
A young chap had just bought his first farm and another had taken on the farm from mum and dad.
In that country, under-cover yards are a must and on one farm this came in the form of a dairy calf rearing shed converted to a set of undercover yards.
Yes, the unintended learning on this day proved to be just as valuable as the intended.
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