Differences between the top and bottom performing farms across the UK industry were primarily down to decisions made by farmers, not to outside factors.
The top 25 per cent of UK farms would remain profitable no matter what the outcome of Brexit would be, according to AHDB’s Horizon reports.
In its most recent report on ‘the characteristics of top performing farms’, the levy body highlighted eight key areas where farms could improve to become a high performer.
Controlling costs was the highest rated farmer to farmer tip for becoming a top business, with all the high-performing farms having lower overheads.
As farming is a commodity-based industry, farmers need to be always looking for ways to trim costs without hitting turnover.
Suggestions included considering whether an older machine can be kept longer but maintained better, collaborating with neighbours and negotiating harder with contractors.
Looking after people was the priority for Tom and Karen Halton, investing in training, including their team in decision making and organising events including barbecues and clay pigeon shoots.
“We appreciate people have to work a lot of hours, but we want our people to have a life,” Mrs Halton said.
She added as one of the herdsmen had a showing background, they had got involved with showing, and every Wednesday they had an ongoing appointment with a sports therapist masseuse.
Calf management was one area where they were very focused on the details.
“From the moment the cow starts calving, we have a special calving area. The cow is milked with the calf, the colostrum is harvested within an hour and the calf fed within an hour of birth,” Mrs Halton said.
She added they measured everything, from weight at birth right through, and their approach meant they had a low death rate.
“I am getting it right in the very beginning because you never get another opportunity to,” she said.
She added her motto was to ‘own everything you do and never settle for second best’.
“We monitor a lot of stuff. If you do not measure it, you cannot change it.”
Setting out ambitions and long-term goals was a characteristic of the top farms with those who compile complete farm budgets also significantly more profitable.
Farmers were advised to communicate with their business partners to make sure they were working towards the same goals.
Keeping a spreadsheet of yields prices and other key measurables could also help compare performance year on year as well as using historic pricing to budget.
Low performing farms often did not realise they were under-achieving, which could show the value of benchmarking, with the report claiming all top farmers benchmark.
Attending discussion groups and comparing data such as horsepower per hectare, daily liveweight gain and staff turnover rates could help farmers understand what was achievable.
Interacting with the people buying the goods can add value and keep costs down if a farm can then produce what their buyer requires.
There could also be ways to add value to the product and gain a premium price.
In livestock, this included understanding the EUROP carcase classification system.
And buyers could also tell the farm if different breeds or crop varieties were more in demand.
Attitude was seen as a key area to adjust in the report, with the best farms listening and trying new ideas from benchmarking meetings, having a positive mindset and enjoying farming.
More specialised farms tended to be the most efficient, focusing the mind.
Fewer enterprises means fewer overheads and it makes it easier to ensure each enterprise is an efficient and optimal size.