Our industry spends a lot of time talking about scale. For many it is talking about gaining scale to be able to justify owning new equipment, buying more land, or driving up labour efficiency. For others it is a reason not to do things.
The most common comment that we hear is “we don’t have the scale to be able to do that” or “we need more scale”. Interestingly when we see an enterprise grow to a large scale size, the exact opposite comments start to come into play. Things like “we can’t do that, not on our scale”.
So, which is it? Do we want more scale or less? Do you want to be bigger or smaller to be able to achieve more?
In my opinion scale (both big and small) is most commonly a convenient excuse for not doing things properly. Increasing the size of your operation should be based upon taking, what is already a great operation, and replicating it across more area. Not attempting to get bigger as a solution to improving performance. Increasing the size of a poor operation, is simply increasing the size of the problem.
For those starting with scale, don’t kid yourself into thinking that for some reason the requirements of your individual animals are any different to someone running a smaller operation. Take supplementary feed for instance. Sure, the total amount of grain to be fed might seem like a huge number because you have so many individual animals, but the requirements of each is exactly the same. When it comes to supplementary feeding there are no shortcuts, and the more animals you have, the more you have to lose from getting it wrong.
The same goes for lambing mob size. Despite all of the evidence showing us that smaller mobs result in improved lamb survival, we still hear from large scale operations that "it would mean too many paddocks". I'm sorry but do you want better results or not?
For the croppers out there, scale is a great justification for buying more or bigger equipment. Take on more ground to help dilute the costs (depreciation etc.). But if increasing your scale blows out your sowing time, and results in crops being sown too late, fertiliser or spray applications missing ideal windows, and hurting yields across the whole area, then what are you really achieving?
Don’t use scale (either big or small) as an excuse. Aim for better. Then replicate it.