John Stantiall - Senior Consultant at Perrin Ag

Business benchmarking the key to tackling climatic and market extremes

As farmers ride out extreme climatic and market conditions, benchmarking their businesses against others in their sector has become crucial for setting goals and understanding how they’re performing.

That was the message from Perrin Ag senior consultant John Stantiall at the recent New Zealand Veterinary Association conference.

John is encouraging farmers to benchmark their businesses against similar operations to identify where they can improve and how they can continue to perform in increasingly challenging situations.

“It’s important for businesses to maintain high levels of performance despite the climatic and market extremes we’re facing,” he says. “Benchmarking across a range of business metrics is useful for making comparisons and working out where you can realistically improve.”

With the huge variation in land, labour, and capital between farming businesses however, John believes it is important farmers are assessing the right data and metrics.

“Farming is a multifactorial business, and no farm will have the same resource mix, so it’s important to compare an average group of similar farms to smooth out the data and make sure you’re comparing apples with apples.”

Using data from reliable industry sources farmers can identify and compare the range of possible variations in both physical and financial measures and help set realistic goals that will work for their own operation.

John says farmers can make comparisons and measure between their own business and others for things like weaning rates, replacement rates, death rates or overall meat and fibre production rates per hectare.

“Farmers might want to consider the top operators in their sector and then assess their own business’ performance against those metrics and see where the middle ground is for them.”

When it comes to financials, John says it is also important to ensure you are comparing your business with others in the same financial year and in the same region.

“The financial results of a business are a combination of many factors: decision-making; physical performance; physical efficiency; market prices and the price extracted from the market; operating costs; and the impact of weather including extreme events.

“For this reason, data needs to be benchmarked against other businesses in the same financial year and same region as your own to see the comparison when faced with the same set of circumstances.

“Figures can be extremely wide-ranging. For example, EBITRm (earnings before interest, tax, rent and wages of management) can range from $200/ha to over $700/ha, depending on how well a business is managed.”

He cautioned farmers about comparing their own year-on-year physical and financial data.

“Comparing your own performance this year to last year is no longer enough. We need to use better indicators to understand where improvements can be made based on industry-wide data.

“For those who have not previously experienced it and are perhaps performing less than the average, benchmarking results can be quite confronting. Sometimes the reasons for this under-performance are well-known. If not, then it’s a matter of using the data to identify where the biggest opportunities are.”

John says benchmarking is a powerful tool and when farmers “let the data talk” rather than form opinions, there is an opportunity for them to make sound business decisions that can add real value to their farm business.

“By using benchmarking farmers can build high performing and resilient farming systems,” says John. “Once the opportunities have been identified, then plans can be put in place and changes made accordingly so that the desired results can be achieved.”



Lee Matheson

Managing Director
Principal Consultant

B.Appl.Sc (Hons), FNZIPIM (Reg)

Lee came to agribusiness consultancy via the unlikely pathway of a suburban Wellington upbringing, an Honours degree in plant science and a six-year career in the financial markets. In his role as the firm’s MD, Lee doesn’t get out on-farm as much as he used to but makes the most of it when he does. While having swapped the paddock for the boardroom, Lee continues to provide advice in the areas of farm business strategy, farm system innovation, corporate governance, investment analysis and economic research.

Outside of Perrin Ag, Lee loves to spend his time coaching rugby, watching his three kids play sport and gardening with his wife Haidee.

“I love the challenge of empowering people in our primary sectors and the excitement of seeing clients achieving their aspirations. If we can encourage farmers to engage with their consumers, take a more active involvement in their supply chains and view their businesses through a wider lens, then I think our industries have a great future.”

Michael Booth

Consultant

Mike brings a wealth of agri-tech and dairy systems expertise to Perrin Ag. After graduating with a Bachelor of AgriCommerce from Massey, he started his career with DairyNZ as a consulting officer where he ran discussion groups and managed farm supervision.

He left DairyNZ to travel the world but within a few months Covid hit, the borders closed, and Mike and his wife Nikita returned home. Back in New Zealand, he took up a role managing DairyNZ’s monitor farms on the Hauraki Plains before joining Halter.

After finishing his OE, he returned home to live in Papamoa and joined the Perrin Ag team in February 2024.

“I’m not someone who likes to sit still and I like to be continually learning. I saw an opportunity with Perrin Ag. As a business their ethos is about continuous improvement and learning. There are always new and better ways of doing things and we need to be at the forefront of that for our clients.”

Abbey Dowd

Consultant

B.Ag.Sc (Hons), MNZIPIM

Abbey joined Perrin Ag in February 2023 as part of the firm’s graduate recruitment programme, Empower.

Abbey grew up surrounded by dairy farms in a close-knit community in South Waikato. She saw first-hand how local farmers supported her community, which is what inspired her to study at Lincoln University.

Growing up in a rural community Abbey has always been impressed by how much local farmers contribute to the community. She wanted to help give back to the industry and play a part in helping our primary sector continue to produce quality food in a sustainable way.

In 2022, Abbey spent the summer as an intern on one of New Zealand’s first commercial deer milking operations. Her Honours project was researching deer milk alongside other more traditional milking operations and assessing the deer milking industry’s future production possibilities.

“Growing up I didn’t live on a farm, but I always knew I wanted to work in the farming sector. I wanted a role where there was a balance between working on and off farm and where I could support farmers to get the best out of their businesses.”

Sam Gray

Consultant

Sam grew up on a dairy farm in the Far North. After graduating from the University of Otago in 2005 with an Honours degree in molecular biotechnology, he spent several years working in medical research in New Zealand and Scotland. Upon returning to New Zealand in 2012, he spent four seasons dairy farming in Northland before purchasing a 56 ha block in Taupо̄, where he was first exposed to farming under a nitrogen cap. Sam joined Perrin Ag in 2023 and brings his strong analytical skills that are grounded by a pragmatic approach to problem solving. Outside of farming and consultancy, you’ll likely find him fly fishing, hunting or snowboarding.

“A lot of farmers feel overwhelmed in the face of a rapidly changing regulatory landscape. I strive to help farmers understand what these environmental regulations mean for their business, and offer practical solutions that allow them to keep doing what they do best, whilst remaining compliant”.

Danni Armstrong

Finance administrator

Danni grew up on a life style block in Atiamuri and spent five seasons as a relief milker in the area. During this time, her full time roles were in various fields including the rental car, health care and marine industries. Danni has had a focus on administrative and accounting duties, but is also proficient in looking after customers especially well, social media and website operation, running a rental car fleet and the associated tasks like training, rosters, H&S and organising repairs! Danni joined Perrin Ag in May 2021, to be part of a business in an industry she is passionate about.

During her spare time Danni can be found reading a book with her cats or out enjoying the walks in Rotorua’s Redwoods.

“What motivates me each day is knowing that I will be challenged with a range of problem solving tasks. I love to see all the figures adding up and knowing that my role makes a difference to the team.”

Duncan Walker

Director
Principal Consultant

B.Appl.Sc, MNZIPIM (Reg)

Coming from a drystock and dairy farming background, Duncan has always been passionate about growing primary sector businesses. Whether it’s pastoral farming, forestry, horticulture or investments outside the farm gate, sustainably optimising business performance is Duncan’s passion. After graduating from Massey University with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Agribusiness, Duncan’s first opportunity to optimise a farm business was by undertaking a dairy conversion. Duncan project managed the conversion and continued to run the dairy farm for a further three years.

Since joining Perrin Ag in 2011 Duncan works with a wide range of clients including those ‘outside the farm gate’. With his strong background in investment analysis, business strategy and project management, Duncan is increasingly working with clients to analyse and integrate horticulture and forestry investments into their farm businesses.

“I enjoy helping clients navigate through the complexities of today’s operational, financial and environmental challenges. Seeing clients achieve their goals is very rewarding”

Lee Matheson

Managing Director
Principal Consultant

B.Appl.Sc (Hons), FNZIPIM (Reg)

Lee came to agribusiness consultancy via the unlikely pathway of a suburban Wellington upbringing, an Honours degree in plant science and a six-year career in the financial markets. In his role as the firm’s MD, Lee doesn’t get out on-farm as much as he used to but makes the most of it when he does. While having swapped the paddock for the boardroom, Lee continues to provide advice in the areas of farm business strategy, farm system innovation, corporate governance, investment analysis and economic research.

Outside of Perrin Ag, Lee loves to spend his time coaching rugby, watching his three kids play sport and gardening with his wife Haidee.

“I love the challenge of empowering people in our primary sectors and the excitement of seeing clients achieving their aspirations.  If we can encourage farmers to engage with their consumers, take a more active involvement in their supply chains and view their businesses through a wider lens, then I think our industries have a great future.”