There is over a £125,000 difference between the top-performing dairy farms and the bottom 50%, according to new data from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

AHDB revisited and updated data from 2017 and 2018 for beef and lamb, dairy and cereals and oilseeds sectors.

The ‘Characteristics of top Performing Farms 2024’ analysis revealed a “gulf in farm income” between farms from the top 25% and bottoms 50% of each sector, AHDB said.

In dairy farms, the difference between top performers and the bottom 50% is £126,500.

For beef and sheep farms it is £49,200, and for cereal farms it is £104,060.

AHDB said it carried out the updated research to reflect the current farming landscape and to highlight the factors that have the most significant impact on performance.

The report analysis, which covers England only, revealed the factors that most influence general farm business performance varies by sector.

However, common themes include:

  • Managing overheads;
  • Attention to detail;
  • Attitude to change;
  • Setting goals and budgets.

‘Stark difference’

AHDB head of economics analysis, Sarah Baker, said the research highlights the “stark difference” in income between the top and bottom performers for each sector covered.

The farms analysed and compared were matched for farm size, sector and geographical features.

“The farming landscape has changed significantly since we last examined the characteristics of top performing farms, with the removal of subsidies and the introduction of ‘public money for public goods’,” she said.

“We felt it was time to revisit and update the data, highlighting the factors that have the most significant influence on farm business performance.

“While there are nuances for each sector, the key point to note is that the factors identified are within farmers’ control to address and potentially improve their farm business performance.

“Our aim is to provide farmers with tools and services to help identify where they may be able to make some changes to their businesses with a view to improving performance and having a positive impact on their bottom line.”

While the analysis covers England only, Baker said the findings are equally applicable across the UK.