A Somerset 'min-till' cereal farm is the latest to join the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) monitor farm programme.

Philip Dolbear, AHDB knowledge exchange manager, said the issues on the new Somerset Monitor Farm could translate to any other.

Dolbear addressed the Taunton Monitor Farm launch meeting, where a number of local farmers had gathered to discuss how to make the most of learning from each other and from experts.

"The issues faced here are relevant and provide a platform for debate around the most pressing widespread matters facing the industry today," he said.

“Regardless of Brexit outcomes, there are always going to be challenges and farmers should be running their businesses as efficiently as possible,” added AHDB regional benchmarking officer David Pett.

'You've got to be able to react'

For Monitor Farm host Richard Payne, that means flexibility.

He said: “We all want prescriptions, but it is our job as farmers to make decisions on the day – to maintain flexibility in a hard market.

"You’ve got to be flexible to react to any situation but be prepared to not see your return on investment for 18 months.”

Benchmarking, using a programme like AHDB’s Farmbench, is a key part of Richard’s approach to farming.

We all think we’re doing a good job, but uploading my data was a real eye-opener. I am guilty of working in my business rather than on my business.

“Benchmarking focuses your mind on where you can save money without compromising performance. Open up and question.”

Richard and many of the Monitor Farm group will be using Farmbench throughout the three years of the project to analyse all aspects of their businesses in detail.

Richard farms 280ha at Manor Farm, Heathfield, near Taunton. The mostly arable farm has been in min-till for more than 15 years.

Farming on silty clay loam, his rotation includes winter wheat, oilseed rape and beans. He grows primarily for the animal feed market, selling forward and into pools to spread risk.

Richard’s main challenges are consistent profitability, succession and knowing which investments to make for the future.

By the end of the Monitor Farm programme, Richard wants to have a better understanding of all his costs of production, particularly on fixed costs, and to benchmark his farm against others.

The next meeting at Taunton Monitor Farm will take place on November 13.