Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) arable monitor farms across the country are gearing up to get a grip on-farm efficiency, productivity and costs this winter.

The group in Taunton, Somerset hosted by Richard Payne at Manor Farm, Heathfield have been discussing ways to lower their overheads.

‘Yield plateau’

He said: “This winter at the monitor farm meetings I want to discuss all the issues that affect our future and most of these will be financial.”

“What can we do about costs? It seems like, nationally, we’ve reached a yield plateau and our variable costs are relatively fixed, so what can we do?”

One of Richard’s options to cut costs is a joint venture, sharing machinery with a neighbour, but it’s not the only suggestion on the table.

Martin Waldock, one of the Monitor Farm steering group, is a relatively new entrant to farming and cuts costs as much as possible, wherever he can.

Reviewing fungicide use

Ditching some pre-ems, and modifying his fungicide programme based on information from the AHDB fungicide performance work, saved Martin £9,000 on 162ha of arable crops for this harvest.

Philip Dolbear, AHDB knowledge exchange manager, said: “Farmers have got to think about the bigger picture; to take a business approach to their farms in the national and international marketplace.”

For Richard, that business approach also involves getting the best out of people.

“During my time in the army I learnt how to treat people – you give them as much responsibility as you can. Farmers are used to being reactionary,” he said. “But they now need to own the agenda.”

We need to do something to be fitter for the future. We need to look really clearly at the business…to examine everything.

“The first thing is to find where your costs are, and that’s where Farmbench and the Monitor Farm programme comes in.”

During his first meeting of the year (November 13), Richard will be taking other farmers through his machinery and labour review, work efficiency rates and costs per hectare.

Minimising overhead costs is one of the eight factors identified by AHDB as hallmarks of high-performing farm businesses in a new report, ‘Preparing for change’.