January 20, 2022

Data-driven decisions with livestock farmer Rob Tole

Mobbler Rob Tole is a fourth generation farmer in Cressy, Tasmania with a dynamic operation that covers sheep breeding and trading, grass and chicory seed production, irrigated cropping and a surface drainage business on the side. 

“We’re farming 560 hectares of our own plus 300 hectares of leased land. About two-thirds of the land is under fixed centre pivot irrigation, and we are a livestock and cropping operation with 4,500 composite breeding ewes and trading on top of that. So on average annually we will be turning off around 12 to 14,000 lambs."

Mobbler Rob Tole from Cressy, Tasmania

Rob's approach

"It's a balancing act, as always, with three young children who all demand a fair bit of time. 

It's all about having good people around you. I’m very lucky, I’ve got some really good employees here who have been here a long time, so that certainly takes the pressure off.” 

Rob has brought a bold and fresh perspective to the farm. He’s pivoted from fattening cattle and intensive cropping to breeding and trading lambs, and switching to crops that work synergistically with the livestock and the soil. He’s certainly seeing the benefits of change. 

We’ve gone away from those intensive crops like potatoes, onions and poppies that were very hard on the ground. It got to the point where lamb became very profitable and we were seeing soil health and compaction issues with heavy machinery at harvest time, hence the push away from intensive crops to more dual purpose crops that complement the livestock operation.”

“We grow a lot of grass seed and graze that through autumn, winter and early spring. We also grow a lot of chicory for seed, once again that's all grazed and then shut up. Then we have some cash cropping in there, such as peas, beans and hemp and we use clover as a rest crop for about three years before it comes up and goes into a cropping phase."

Big picture stuff

Rob’s focus is on looking at the bigger picture, making sure everything works together, and keeping options open to ensure long-term viability for the farmers and the land. 

“We’re passionate about livestock and we also have the flexibility to change - if something were to happen to the livestock industry we have the option to go back into intensive cropping because we’ve spelled the ground now for 4 or 5 years.”

Being on the front foot to create a sustainable operation has paid off over the years, and Rob can now report “I get satisfaction out of what we do and the day to day stuff we improve. We're dealing with the weather so there’s always headaches but the plan always comes together at some stage. It might not be what you started off with at the start of the week, but as long as we’ve achieved something or improved something  that's always rewarding. I just enjoy what I do and I’m passionate about it.” 

Rob applies the same bold approach to new options on the market, and admits “I’ve been accused of being an early adopter of technology quite a few times in my life. I've always been passionate about technology and new things. We look at ideas that come out and if we think it's going to be appropriate for our operation, we certainly try them. There's no regrets. You live and learn and if something doesn't work, what else will, you know? That's the way I look at things.” 

Rob on Mobble

It’s this perspective that led Rob to Mobble, a farm management app that allows him to keep a handle on all the different facets of his operation with ease. 

I’d been looking for a program tailored to livestock operations. Most of the ones I tried were crop dominant and poor at livestock tracking. So when I came across Mobble on social media I thought ‘let’s give it a go.”

For Rob, Mobble has been a big asset for maintaining that big-picture focus across the operation. 

"I’m running between multiple businesses and enterprises and two of my stockmen do most of the physical work, so it allows me to quickly look at the whole farm and see where stock are, especially now there’s a map.”

Rob has found that Mobble compliments his approach to strategic decision making for the farm, working as an extension of his existing knowledge. 

“I know for each month of the year what crops we’ve got in and how many lambs we can run per hectare, so I can quickly look and go righto, now it’s coming into Autumn time we need to get back to 40 lambs to the hectare, we’re currently at 50. What lamb sales have we got coming up? Do I need to slow my purchases? And vice versa going the other way in Spring.”

A strong team is key to the success of Rob’s operation, and that strength is built on good people and good communication using Mobble. 

“It's easy to use and all levels of people can use it. And it’s got to be that way, it can’t only be for the manager to use. Because I’m not physically there drenching sheep, I can check and see which mob is in a withholding period and make better decisions about mob movements, so it’s helped me because I’ve stepped away from that day to day work and when you’re not physically doing it, you've got to get that information from somewhere. It’s the communication between staff and myself via Mobble that makes the difference.”

Like many of his strategic leaps in a new direction, Rob has no regrets about bringing Mobble on board. 

“The good thing about Mobble is it’s simple. It's not over-complicated. I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest Mobble for anyone.” 

More info on Mobble here.

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