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Producers band together to boost productivity

16 February 2022


The MFMG PDS group watches on during a practical session held in the cattle yards of one of the project’s host properties.

Profit-boosting research

PDS has delivered $168.8M in total net benefits to participating producers as a result of completed projects between 2015-2021. In 2021-22 this will be equivalent to $10.8M in annual net benefits to participating producers.

On average, this means producers can expect an additional net benefit of $6/ha annually as a result of their participation in the program.

If you are interested in receiving regular updates about the PDS program, sign up at

Applications open on 1 April for producer groups interested in pursuing new skills, management practices and technologies to improve their enterprise management through MLA’s Producer Demonstration Sites (PDS) program.  

The program supports producers to conduct research and build skills designed to increase the productivity, profitability and sustainability of their unique production systems.  

Here’s a look at one of the 70 PDS projects currently underway across Australia:  

Projects for productivity  

A PDS delivered by the MacKillop Farm Management Group (MFMG) is taking significant steps to improve heifer reproduction from weaning to second calving for more than 18,000 breeding cows across the Limestone Coast region of SA.  

It supports producers across 20 beef businesses to develop best practice management skills for reducing reproductive losses while boosting cattle herd health, welfare and profitability.  

PDS Project Facilitator and consultant, Elke Hocking, said the project came about after a survey conducted in conjunction with MLA Livestock Consulting Intern, Emma Peters, revealed strong interest in the initiative.  

“We rang 15 producers across the Limestone Coast region, who indicated there was a large gap in beef extension and adoption services in the area and that they were eager to conduct a PDS project to address some common issues impacting animal health and reproduction in the region,” Elke said.  

“We put together a preliminary application for the project with MFMG and, after it was accepted by MLA, we then worked with the participating producers to get consensus on the project’s focus before submitting our final application for the PDS project.”  

Building the foundations  

Now in its second year of operation, considerable progress has been made as part of the project to build the group’s capabilities in maximising herd reproductive performance.  

“We’ve collected baseline data from producers about what their current reproductive records were and we’re now conducting sessions to help producers adopt best practice management systems for optimum reproductive performance.  

“This year, we’ll be collecting reproductive data from our participating producers’ heifers and discussing what they’re observing, as well as how they’re applying what they’ve learnt in the first year to improve their heifer reproduction rates and get set up for the subsequent joining.”  

Regroup and reflect  

Elke said effective coordination and evaluation were key to running a successful PDS project.  

“My advice is to get help from a professional consultant, facilitator or a farming systems group to run your PDS if possible,” Elke said.  

“I also run an evaluation after each session we do as part of the project, so we can think about what we could do better each time.  

“Continuous improvement is always essential if you want to get the most relevant outcomes for the project participants and ensure the topics covered are producer-driven.”  

Learning for life  

Elke recommends producer groups interested in finding new ways to improve their enterprise consider applying to undertake a PDS, with the peer-to-peer learning and skill development facilitated by the program already proving invaluable to producers involved in her project.  

“Producers appreciate having technical experts delivering sessions, but they really value getting out onto other people’s properties and seeing how other producers manage their enterprises.”  

How to apply for a PDS:  

MLA’s PDS program calls for levy and co-contributor PDS projects on an annual basis. The 2022–23 PDS Open Call preliminary application round opens on 1 April 2022 and closes on 13 May 2022.  

For terms of reference, project priorities and application forms, visit