Sheila and Geoff Russell

Sheila and Geoff Russell

Sheila says they are always keen to try new to the market solutions which make life easier and last year she heard talk about Farm Focus – the latest rural software application developed and designed specifically for farmers.

Switching to Focus was a smart move!

Sharemilkers Sheila and Geoff Russell, plus George (11) and Ellie (9), run 430 x-bred cows on 195ha of rolling, mainly clay based country at Tomarata, east of Wellsford.

They also run young stock on an adjoining lease block and crop chicory and maize for their own use. This year the couple are trialing a crop of Pallaton Raphno™ – a new grazable kale cultivator. While its early days Sheila says the crop will provide an alternative to chicory for paddocks further from the shed, and hopefully will be less appetizing to the ducks!

She says they are always keen to try new to the market solutions which make life easier and last year she heard talk about Farm Focus – the latest rural software application developed and designed specifically for farmers by local company Farm Focus (formerly CRS Software).

“I contacted them in Masterton and asked about availability – more specifically when we could have access to Focus. In fact, looking back I called a few times which may have verged on nagging but it worked, and we were lucky to be one of the early transitions in September 2019.

“Switching to Focus was easy and the functionality is brilliant. One of the best things for me is the new chat function which provides an added level of comfort knowing the Customer Support Team are there if required, without having to wait on the phone for hours.

“If I need help after hours the problem is easily logged by me in the chat and the team will follow up once back online with a call, or an email if needed.”

Sheila says the Farm Focus team are super responsive compared to other providers who seem to just send you on rotation when issues arise.

“The company listen and seem to welcome feedback – I’ve suggested a couple of formatting changes and ease of use enhancements over the last 18 months and am really impressed some of these suggestions have been listened to and are now a feature of the product.”

Having their business information at her fingertips is another bonus for Sheila and she says knowing what is coming up and exactly which is useful.

“I love having everything online. We only receive one or two invoices by post and the rest arrive online and are saved directly to our bank feed which is such a time saver and a much more user-friendly way to work.

“It’s helpful to have all our business info saved to one place and readily available. For example, Geoff and I were recently discussing the pregnancy testing of our heifers last season and we weren’t in agreement on timing. I was able to pull up the invoice and confirm the details there and then!”

Sheila says she manages their financial information and updates regularly but their accountant is still linked in so she can also see where things are at without having to call or arrange a visit.

“We’re pleased with our switch to Farm Focus – it’s everything I thought it would be. You can see where you’re at as soon as you log in and stay on top of the accounts in real time. With so much automation of processing regular accounts it’s not such a big job now when end of each month rolls round.”

This is the couple's thirteenth season on this farm and they’ve been sharemilking here for the last 7 years, which is a long haul in any career. While they still love what they do saving time and effort remain big drivers as they continually seek to streamline processes.

Sheila says their two full time staff are invaluable to the whole set up. “They are incredibly reliable and trustworthy so we can take time off farm with the kids for mini breaks because we know they’ll have things running like clockwork in our absence.

“Taking time out is essential. We’ve been in serious drought more times than I can count, which is an all-encompassing stress for farmers.

“During the tough times we try to shift our focus and remain resilient. Tools such as Farm Focus help us see where we’re going on the financial side and good staff that help spread the workload has helped us get through some challenging times.”