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Three ways producer groups can prepare for the PDS open call

22 March 2022


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

Profit-boosting research

Producer Demonstration Sites (PDS) – an MLA program providing support for producer-led groups to pursue new skills and implement new management practices – has delivered $168.8 million 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.

With the annual call for Producer Demonstration Sites opening on 1 April, we speak to MLA Project Manager, Alana McEwan, about her top three tips for preparing a high-quality application.

“Producers and farming organisations should always try and be on the front foot when it comes to effective managing techniques and making improvements to their business practices,” Alana said.

Before proceeding with a preliminary PDS application, producer and/or farming systems groups should:

1. Get buy-in from the producer group – ensure you’re engaging active producers who are open to practice change

 MLA recommends establishing a group of 10 core producers, with three to five of them open to providing their properties to host demonstration sites. Producers should speak to peers in their local areas and start discussions on specific farming issues they think should be addressed.

Local service providers, such as farming systems groups, livestock advisors and consultants, can also provide great assistance by directing you towards like-minded producers, and providing support for group discussions.

2. Identify key management practices that are of interest and relevance to the group

Once your group has been established, identify the key management issues that you want the project to address. These improvements can range from productivity increases, profitability maximisation or a change in perspective on sustainability.

3. Engage a PDS facilitator to assist with the application and project coordination

While PDSs are focused on producers working together and learning from each other, an experienced PDS facilitator is vital to the effective coordination of your project.

Although established farming systems groups often have staff members that take on this role, newer groups should consider local service providers to outsource the technical knowledge and skills needed to deliver results. These include livestock advisors/consultants (both private and national, such as Elders/Nutrien), agronomists, vets, and department extension officers. These providers can aid in the application process, communication with MLA’s PDS contacts, and help keep the project on track for success.

The application process

  • The annual PDS call opens on 1 April, with preliminary applications closing on 13 May.
  • Successful preliminary applications will be invited to submit full applications, with successful full applications progressing to finalised contracts.
  • This process takes approximately six months, with MLA seeking projects that will commence in the latter half of 2022–23. Projects must be active for a minimum of two years and a maximum of six years, allowing for continuous monitoring, adjustment, and time for the practices to show their merit over various seasons.