Background and experience
I have over 40 years’ experience across most facets of agriculture including as a farmer in my own right, with investors in farming enterprises I developed, as an asset manager at UK-based Insight Investment overseeing agricultural businesses, as a CEO of Australia’s largest dairy farming enterprise (VDL), as a MD/CEO of Uruguay’s largest dairy farming enterprise (NZFSU/Olam, a publicly listed NZ company), as a MD of a farm performance and benchmarking software company (Red Sky), as a senior partner/director in an agricultural consultancy company (Intelact), and as a director of a NZ-based cooperative dairy company. This has resulted in me living and working in New Zealand, Uruguay and London in addition to Australia, and also given me significant experience in Russia, South Africa, Chile, Romania and Poland, and lesser experience in a host of other countries. Although my business experience is specialised in dairying, it includes substantial experience in beef, sheep and cropping enterprises.
Managing Director / Owner
Red Sky Agricultural Pty Ltd
2003 – Present
Red Sky produces a single software product – Red Sky Farm Performance Analysis. The software was launched in Australia and New Zealand in January 2003, and subsequently in South Africa. The main customers are farmers/farm businesses and the rural consultants who service these farms. The software is web-enabled with all users connecting via the web to a server which stores all farm data. Benchmarks are produced from this data so farmers can see how they compare to their peers as well as tracking how they are progressing over time. In addition, they can use the software to test scenarios for their farms and build business plans for the future. Red Sky provides business analysis and advice directly to farmers as well as corporate clients, industry, and government. Recently Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador were added as markets for expansion.
Director / Principal
BecaZuur Consulting Pty Ltd
2002 – Present
BecaZuur Consulting was incorporated in 2002 and was the business that I utilised for agricultural and business consultancy from that time. While I was employed by Olam/NZFSU, Insight Investment and VDL/Moon Lake, BecaZuur Consulting did not provide any advisory services. More recently I have again been providing consultancy services to agricultural/business enterprises through this company, including delivering seminars/workshops in Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador and South Africa.
Chief Operating Officer
Harmony Agriculture and Food Company Pty Ltd
2018 – 2019
Harmony Agriculture and Food Company was a vertically integrated grower and supplier of beef (and sheep) to domestic and international markets. The operations included grazing and feedlotting of livestock in Victoria and Western Australia (including approx 15,000 cattle on feed), through to both local processing and live export of livestock, and sales to domestic and international customers based in China, South East Asia and the Middle East. It is an Australian business, which is majority owned by Chinese investors. Unfortunately the business was unable to maintain its rapid growth and needed to restructure, which included a contraction in the business to around one third its previous size.
Chief Executive Officer
The Van Diemen’s Land Company / Moon Lake Investments
2015 – 2017
The Van Diemen's Land Company ('VDL') was milking approximately 19,000 cows and was Australia's largest dairy farming enterprise. VDL owned 25 dairy farms as well as support land to raise replacement heifers, winter dry cows and produce supplementary feed for the dairy farms. Out of a total 19,300 hectares under management, 17,000 hectares was in a single contiguous block at Woolnorth in the north-west corner of Tasmania. After completing the sale of the business to new owners, I subsequently resigned due to an effective change in my role.
Head of Farmland Management
2013 – 2015
My responsibilities at Insight included oversight of farming properties across 5 countries. This included 3 dairy farms in Southland, New Zealand which were expanded to 4 farms (approx 2500 cows) plus 2 beef properties in Northern Territory, Australia encompassing 550,000 hectares. There were also 2 dairy farms in Los Rios & Los Lagos, Chile (approx 1600 cows) which were expanding to a include a 3rd dairy farm plus mixed cropping properties in Judetal Calarasi, Romania (approx 14,000 ha) and a potato and mixed cropping property in Lupawa, Poland (approx 1,500 ha).
Non-Executive Director then Chief Executive Officer / Managing Director
New Zealand Farming Systems Uruguay
2010 – 2013
New Zealand Farming Systems Uruguay ('NZFSU') was a publicly listed New Zealand company operating in Uruguay. I initially led the operational due diligence team on behalf of Olam International that subsequently resulted in it purchasing a majority stake in the company. This led to my appointment as a non-executive director in October 2010 and then as CEO/MD in February 2011. In my time at NZFSU the business expanded from 29 to 48 operating dairy farms, and the milking herd from 24,000 to 44,000 cows. There was approximately 36,000 hectares under management, with total livestock numbers exceeding 80,000 head (including growing heifers). Total staff numbers were approximately 800.
Leader Upstream Dairy
2011 – 2013
In addition to my role at NZ Farming Systems Uruguay, I also lead the upstream dairy team at Olam. The other major investment for which I had dairying oversight was the investment in Rusmolco in Penza, Russia. This was a combined dairy and agri (cropping) business with approximately 130,000 hectares under management. The confinement dairy operation included 2 modern confinement facilities with a capacity of 5500 milking cows.
Director / Owner
1994 – 2010
My initial responsibility was to help launch the company and commercialise technology that had been trialled on a number of New Zealand dairy farmers. Over a number of years I helped lead the company in its expansion from 3 to 40 consultants who worked across New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, and undertook consultancy or farming activities in various other countries including Brazil, Turkey, Madagascar, Ukraine and Russia. The work included the use of sophisticated computer software that helped develop optimal farm systems and the company provided a full suite of farm consultancy services. In addition, feed businesses were developed in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa to provide farmers with cost-effective concentrates which included pioneering the trade in palm kernel from Malaysia and Indonesia to New Zealand.
Northland Cooperative Dairy Company
1991 – 1992
I served as a non-executive director of this New Zealand dairy company that processed all the milk produced north of Auckland. I was approached by my fellow farmers to stand as a director due to perceived poor performance of the Cooperative. I helped lead a group of directors to change the direction of the Company and to lift its performance. The actions that followed, which included undertaking a performance audit followed by organisation changes and a company restructure, resulted in concrete signs of improved profitability by the time I left the Board.
Marmu Corporation Ltd
1987 – 1994
Along with investors we formed this Company to purchase 971 hectares at Ruawai in Northland (New Zealand). A business plan was implemented to upgrade farm performance through intensive grazing systems, which provided the basis for a doubling of carrying capacity plus a move away from breeding sheep and cattle to predominantly finishing beef. To further increase return on investment, three areas of the farm were converted to dairying, with over 1,000 cows milked through 3 cowsheds on 390 hectares. Land and livestock prices had inflated to the point where the investment had more than doubled in value, and the properties were sold in June 1994.
Refereed Journal Papers
Beca D. (2022), ‘Potential improvement in the performance of dairy farms in South Africa’, Agrekon 61, Issue 4, pp. 412-432.
Beca D. (2021), ‘Labour Cost and Labour Efficiency within the Australian Dairy Industry’, Australasian Agribusiness Perspectives 24, Paper 18, pp. 258-281.
Beca D. (2020), ‘Key Determinants of Profit for Pasture-based Dairy Farms’, Australasian Agribusiness Perspectives 23, Paper 16, pp. 247-274.
Beca D. (2020), ‘Evaluating the Loss of Profitability and Declining Milk Production in the Australian Dairy Industry’, Australasian Agribusiness Perspectives 23, Paper 9, pp. 136-164.
Chapman D.F., Kenny S.N., Beca D. and Johnson I.R. (2008), ‘Pasture and crop options for non-irrigated dairy farms in southern Australia. 1. Physical production and economic performance’, Agricultural Systems 97, pp. 108-125.
Chapman D.F., Kenny S.N., Beca D. and Johnson I.R. (2008), ‘Pasture and crop options for non-irrigated dairy farms in southern Australia. 2. Inter-annual variation in forage supply, and business risk’, Agricultural Systems 97, pp. 126-138.
Chapman D.F., Cullen B.R., Johnson I.R. and Beca D. (2009), ‘Interannual variation in pasture growth rate in Australian and New Zealand dairy regions and its consequences for system management’, Animal Production Science 49, pp. 1071-1079.
Macdonald K.A., Beca D., Penno J.W., Lancaster J.A.S. and Roche J.R. (2011), ‘Short communication: Effect of stocking rate on economics of pasture-based dairy farms’, Journal of Dairy Science 94, pp. 2581-2586.
Chapman D.F., Hill J., Tharmaraj J., Beca D., Kenny S.N. and Jacobs J.L. (2014), ‘Increasing home-grown forage consumption and profit in non-irrigated dairy systems. 1. Rationale, systems design and management’, Animal Production Science 54: pp. 221-233.
Chapman D.F., Beca D., Hill J., Tharmaraj J., Jacobs J.L. and Cullen B.R. (2014), ‘Increasing home-grown forage consumption and profit in non-irrigated dairy systems. 4. Economic performance, Animal Production Science 54, pp. 256-262.
Refereed Conference Papers
Chapman D.F., Kenny S. and Beca D. (2005), ‘Alternative feedbase systems for southern Australia dairy farms. 1. Predicted pasture/crop consumption and farm financial performance’, In: XXth International Grassland Conference: Offered papers (Eds. F.P. O’Mara, R.J. Wilkins, L. ‘tMannetje, D.K. Lovett, P.A.M. Rogers, T.M. Boland) p. 461. Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen.
Chapman D.F., Kenny S. and Beca D. (2005), ‘Alternative feedbase systems for southern Australia dairy farms. 2. Seasonal variability, In: XXth International Grassland Conference: Offered papers (Eds. F.P. O’Mara, R.J. Wilkins, L. ‘tMannetje, D.K. Lovett, P.A.M. Rogers, T.M. Boland) p. 461. Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen.
Chapman D.F., Hill J., Tharmaraj J., Jacobs J.L., Beca D., Grendon R., Watson L. and Fergusson A. (2007), ‘Effects of complementary forages on productivity and profit of dairy systems in southwest Victoria, Australia’ In: Meeting the challenges for pasture based dairying, Proceedings of the 3rd Australasian Dairy Science Symposium (Eds. D.F. Chapman, D.A. Clark, K.L. Macmillan, D.P. Nation) pp. 526–534. National Dairy Alliance, Melbourne.
Non-Refereed Papers and Reports
Beca D. (2021), ‘Changing Production Systems: Improving Profit in Australian Dairy’, In: Proceedings of the 2021 Grasslands Society of Southern Australia Annual Conference, Victoria, Australia, pp. 13-21, also available at http://redskyagri.com/page/redsky_59.html.
Beca D. (2021), ‘International Dairy Industry Farm Performance Report: Australia vs New Zealand vs United States vs Argentina vs Uruguay vs South Africa vs Ireland vs United Kingdom’, Report available from Red Sky Agricultural at http://redskyagri.com/page/redsky_58.html.
Beca D. (2021), ‘Australian Dairy Industry Farm Performance Report: State-by-State and International Comparisons, Report available from Red Sky Agricultural at http://redskyagri.com/page/redsky_58.html.
Beca D. (2020), ‘Addendum to Key Determinants of Profit for Pasture-based Dairy Farms – South Africa versus Australia’, Paper available from Red Sky Agricultural at http://redskyagri.com/page/redsky_61.html.
Beca D. (2020), ‘Addendum to Evaluating the Loss of Profitability and Declining Milk Production in the Australian Dairy Industry’, Paper available from Red Sky Agricultural at http://redskyagri.com/page/redsky_51.html.
Beca D. (2007), ‘Tri-Nations revisited – Profitability variations between the average and the best in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand’, Presented to the 2007 South African Large Herds Conference, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Beca D. (2006), ‘Are there economies of scale in dairying? If so, what is the most economic size?’ In: Proceedings of the 2006 Dairy Research Foundation Symposium, Camden, Australia, pp. 15-25.
‘3030 Project: A 30% improvement in return on assets through a 30% increase in the consumption of home grown forage’. From 2004 to 2010 I was a significant contributor to this project, with it being one of the largest dairy research projects undertaken in Australia.
‘Analysis of Business Performance of Dairy Farms (Internationally)’; undertaken for Olam International and completed in 2009. This report included an analysis of which countries/regions provided the best opportunities for dairy farming investment.
‘Analysis of Business Performance on South Australian Dairy Farms’; undertaken for Primary Industries and Resources SA (PIRSA) and completed in 2006 and 2007.
‘Analysis of Business Performance on Western Australian Dairy Farms’; undertaken for Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) and Challenge Dairy Co-operative and completed in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
‘Benchmarking Tasmania Sheep & Beef Industry’; undertaken for Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research (TIAR) and completed 2007-2010.
‘Review of Elliott (Dairy) Research and Demonstration Station’; undertaken for Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research (TIAR) and completed in 2009 in partnership with Neil Lane (Intelact Australia).
‘Review of Forthside Vegetable Research Station’; undertaken for Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research (TIAR) and completed in 2009/10.
‘Analysis of Business Performance on Western Australia Beef, Crossbred Sheep and Merino Farms’; undertaken for Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) and completed in 2011.
‘Analysis of Business Performance on Western Australia Beef Farms’ undertaken for Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) and completed in 2012.
‘Australian Dairy Business of the Year Competition’; undertaken by Red Sky Agricultural and Intelact Australia on behalf of the competition sponsors. I led a small team that developed, promoted, organised and delivered this national competition from 2007 through to 2010.
‘New Zealand Dairy Business of the Year Competition’; undertaken by Red Sky Agricultural and Intelact (NZ) on behalf of the competition sponsors. I led a small team that developed, promoted, organised and delivered this national competition from 2007 through to 2010.
‘The Relationship between Seasonality of Milk Production and Dairy Farm Financial Performance’ and ‘Designing a Milk Payment System to Improve the Seasonality of Milk Supply’; undertaken for Nestle Australia and completed in 1999. This study examined the business performance of dairy farms in Western Districts and Northern Victoria, and analysed the opportunities to better target off-season milk payment incentives with a view to flattening the milk supply curve.
‘Review of Open Country Cheese Milk Pricing’; undertaken for Open Country Cheese (NZ) and completed in 2005.
‘Recommendation for Dairy Trust Southland Milk Pricing’ and ‘Recommendation for Dairy Trust Wanganui, Waikato and Northland Milk Pricing’; undertaken for Dairy Trust (NZ) and completed in 2007 and 2008.
Red Sky farm performance benchmarks (financial and physical) for farming businesses have been produced for the following industries: Australian regional and state dairy farming, Australian regional beef, crossbred sheep & merino farming, New Zealand regional and national dairy farming, New Zealand national beef & sheep farming, South African regional dairy farming.
Conference and Seminar Presentations
There are several conference and seminar presentations that were delivered in a number of countries that are available at http://redskyagri.com/149/articles/articles-featured.html.