Farm Management

Learn better farm management with this course developed by John Mason, prolific writer and the author of best-selling book "Farm Management". Study with our team of internationally renowned agricultural experts from Australia and the UK.

Course CodeBAG104
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Learn to Manage Farming for Sustainability and Productivity

Improve your capacity to more effectively manage a farm or agricultural enterprise which services farms. Farming is just as much about management as it is about animal or crop production. Unfortunately in today's world, the ability to produce a good animal or crop is no guarantee for success!

Through this course, learn to analyse, diagnose and make decisions related to the management of a farm business. The course relates to managing all resources, including; production, staff, physical resources, and natural resources. You learn strategic planning, whole farm planning, and how to prepare a business plan.

This course was developed by a team of experts from Australia and the UK, under the leadership of John Mason, author of three Farm Management books (published by imprints of Simon & Schuster and CSIRO)


Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Strategic Planning
    • Planning procedures
    • Policy formulation approach
    • Strategic management approach
    • Initial strategy approach
    • Farm business structures
    • Management plans
    • Financial terminolgy and the money market
    • Finding finance; rural finance sources
    • Financial terminology and record keeping
    • Contract law
    • Elements of a simple contract
    • Offers, acceptance, consideration
    • Strategic plans
    • Trusts
  2. Business Plans
    • Farm planning
    • Quality management systems
    • Whole farm planning
    • Preparing a business plan
    • Integrated production plans
  3. Business Assessment
    • Business goals
    • Factors involved in business assessment
    • Considering factors affecting your business
    • Drawing conclusions
  4. Viability Analysis
    • Assessing profit
    • Risk analysis and managing risk
    • Standards; cost efficiency
    • Cost of production
    • Quality and quantity standards
    • Financial records
    • The bookkeeping process
    • End of period accounting
    • Cash flow
    • Example of budget
    • Sensitivity analysis
  5. Management Strategies
    • Organising the workplace
    • Scheduling; production systems
    • System variables
    • Animal production systems
    • Lot feeding
    • Cropping systems
    • Polyculture
    • Office systems
    • Computers
    • Business diversification
    • Value adding
  6. Human Resources
    • Supervision
    • Oganisational structures
    • Leadership
    • Workplace changes
    • Interviewing, recruitment and staff induction
    • Giving instructions
    • Managing human resources
    • Work scheduling
    • Occupational Health and safety
    • Duty of care
    • Protective equipment
    • Dealing with chemicals
    • Handling tools and equipment
    • Safety auditing
  7. Physical Resources
    • Managing equipment
    • Machinery and building
    • Managing physical resources
    • Engineering efficiency
    • Animal structures
  8. Natural Resources
    • Regulations and legislation
    • Land care programs
    • Rehabilitation
    • Trees; erosion control
    • Soil degradation
    • Salinity
    • Soil acidification
    • Compaction
    • Chemical residues
    • Water management
    • Water quality
    • Irrigation and watering systems

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Develop strategic planning methods for an agricultural business.
  • Learn how to prepare a Farm Business Plan.
  • Develop methods for assessing the operations of a Farm Business.
  • Analyse the viability of different production enterprises:
    • assessing profits
    • risk analysis
    • cost efficiency
    • quality standards
    • financial records
  • Develop strategies for managing different farm production enterprises, covering workplace organisation and crop scheduling.
  • Plan the management of human resources in a farm business covering:
    • supervision
    • types of leadership/managers
    • orders & instruction
    • motivating employees
    • recruitment
  • Develop methods for managing the physical resources of a farm business including managing equipment, machinery and buildings.
  • Develop methods for managing the natural resources of a farm business, covering topics:
    • regulations & legislation
    • landcare programs
    • erosion control
    • soil degradation
    • salinity
    • soil acidification
    • chemical residues
    • compaction

How Should the Farm Business be Structured?

Managing a farm today is more complex, in more ways than ever before.

  • Technology has changed things in obvious ways. Through mechanisation and computers, one person is now able to do the same work that many were needed for in the past.
  • Globalisation has expanded potential markets, but also created greater competition not only in country, but around the world
  • Changes to government systems (eg. taxation, inheritance laws, etc), have changed the way in which farms are structured for best productivity and long term sustainability.
  • The breeds of animals and cultivars of plants you farm can have a bigger impact upon productivity than ever before.

Many farms are set up as family enterprises, with emphasis on continuing the business throughout the generations. One of the most tax effective ways of setting up a family business is to create a trust. 

A trust consists of three parties; the creator of the trust, the trustees and the beneficiaries. The trustee's responsibility is to act on behalf of the beneficiaries, with the trustee owning legal interest in the property and the beneficiaries the equitable interest. A trust is different from a company in that it is not a separate entity from its owners, so the trustees are legally responsible for the trust. This includes liability for administering the trust, management of the trust, raising funds (apart from the initial funds, which are a gift from the creator) and paying tax on any income not passed on to the beneficiaries.

The beneficiaries of a trust are entitled to any interest as designated. The funds they receive can be used by the trustee to pay the expenses of the trust. They cannot interfere with the management of the trust, without taking legal action, and are personally liable for the income tax on any income they receive. There are no limits to the number of beneficiaries named.

It is advisable to consult both your Accountant and your Solicitor when considering setting up a trust. An Accountant would be most qualified to advise on what tax benefits the trust would be eligible for and how best to account for and distribute the money in the trust. A Solicitor is best suited to advise on the legal aspects of ownership, rights and responsibilities of those involved. As with most legal matters, the initial outlay can be quite costly, but the long range benefits can be worth the price. In Australia family trusts are not as great a tax saving as they have been in the past, due to changes in tax laws.

A trust is only one option; and it may not be the best option in many situations. Options for the way in which farms are legally constituted will no doubt keep changing as well.
Being a good farm manager is not just about agricultural practice. It also requires an understanding of legal structures, financial management, technology and much more.


A firm grasp of farm management is the one thing that any farmer or agricultural investor cannot be without.
It is always possible to employ someone with the knowledge and skill to grow and harvest crops, or animals; but a certain level of knowledge and understanding of the broader farm management is needed if you are to make the best choices for planning and investing resources into a farming enterprise.

Some will take this course so they can make better decisions about their own property, while others may study to add to their knowledge and skills attained through previous farming experience or study. You may take this course in conjunction with other studies, perhaps as part of a certificate. Alternatively, you may study this course by itself.

These studies can be very beneficial in any sort of agricultural career, including:

  • Operating your own farm
  • Working as a farm manager
  • Managing a farm supply, service or marketing business


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Bob James

Horticulturalist, Agriculturalist, Environmental consultant, Businessman and Professional Writer. Over 40 years in industry, Bob has held a wide variety of senior positions in both government and private enterprise. Bob has a Dip. Animal Husb, B.App.Sc.,
Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
Alison Pearce

Alison brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to ACS students. She has worked as a University Lecturer, has also run a veterinary operating theatre; responsible for animal anaesthesia, instrument preparation, and assistance with surgical techniqu
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