Finding it hard to juggle your cropping operation with your sheep operation? Had enough of feeding sheep in the dark during seeding? The University of Western Australia is working on some solutions.
UWA Masters student Gus Rose has been investigating the problems faced by time-pressed farmers in a project funded by Land and Water Australia.
"As farm sizes increase and labour gets harder to find, many farmers are focusing on cropping as their core business," Mr Rose said.
"Farmers are putting a priority on cropping and reducing their emphasis on sheep production."
Research by Mr Rose, who works in UWA's School of Agricultural and Resource Economics, has revealed that seasonal labour for cropping is the most profitable use of labour.
"The return on investment in labour for cropping rather than sheep work is a lot higher due to the high labour demand for sheep, particularly for supplementary feeding and monitoring during summer and autumn," he said.
"This year, because the break in the season has been late in many areas, farmers are finding it hard to juggle the needs of their sheep when their priority is to get their crop in on time."
One option for farmers is to outsource their sheep management to a professional sheep manager, a concept conceived by Professor Ross Kingwell from the Department of Agriculture and Food and The University of Western Australia.
"If farmers can get somebody to manage their sheep for them, then they can become better crop managers," Mr Rose said. "This would mean that they could become more efficient at cropping whilst still making low risk income from sheep."
Mr Rose has found this system of outsourcing sheep management to be potentially viable. However, despite the benefits associated with sheep outsourcing, farmers in Western Australia are understandably sceptical.
"The idea of outsourcing is new which means that adoption is going to take time. However, many agricultural regions are becoming more crop dominant, so I believe that this type of business decision will be common in the future," Mr Rose said.