With the farming industry braced for change in 2021, farm management software experts AgriWebb asked industry leaders their advice for farmers this year
The turn of the year was the perfect time to pause, reflect and plan what was next for farming businesses in 2021.
Brexit, major changes in agricultural policy and reduced direct payments mean many farmers will be taking a close look at their business.
Industry leaders have shared their advice for 2021 and beyond.
With huge uncertainty from Covid-19 and the political changes, farmers should take stock of their own business and consider what they can improve, rather than focusing on things out of their control, according to Phil Hambling, head of food and farming at the NFU.
He said: “Like all businesses, we face the triple challenge of being leaner, greener and keener – NFU will be straining every sinew to help farm businesses to succeed in 2021 and beyond but no one knows your business like you do – nor has the influence to drive your business success.”
Hybu Cig Cymru industry development manager John Richards added things such as knowing your costs of production were always beneficial.
He said: “Farms which take small, practical steps to reduce costs and produce what the market requires will always be in a stronger position to weather any storms."
Never lose sight of opportunities and look for the positives.
That was the message from John Mercer, director at NFU Cymru, as he encouraged farmers to remember the UK had ‘the best farmers in the world producing the best food and drink’ while delivering for society.
“We have an amazing story to tell so do not be afraid to play your part in telling it and be proud to be a farmer and grower,” he said.
Michael Seals, farmer and Chairman of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE), Defra, added: “2021 is the beginning of a big change for farming. My advice is to forget the past and grasp the new opportunities that will come our way, supported by government.
"Change is an opportunity, the only thing to fear is fear itself.”
Big decisions will be made in 2021 after the UK and Welsh Governments revealed the policies which will ‘shape the future of the farming industry for years to come’, according to Tenant Farmers Association chief executive George Dunn.
“Farming businesses should take the opportunity to fully digest the changes being proposed and ensure that they are fit and ready to meet the challenges which lie ahead and take advantage of the opportunities that will surely come.”
Lord Newborough, owner of the Rhug Estate, North Wales, added it was important not to change anything drastically until it was known what lay ahead.
He said: “Always look for deficiencies and efficiencies while keeping an eye on automation and technological advancements such as GPS, robotics and better software.”
Take a break and walk the land with a different mindset to see what is possible was the advice from Innovis chief executive Dewi Jones.
He advised trying to reduce costs to a ‘sustainable level’.
“Measure to manage and use innovation when it is cost effective. Learn to tell consumers about what you are doing,” he said.
Campbell Mauchan, General Manager at AgriWebb, says: “Life will keep throwing unforeseen challenges at us but the easiest way to futureproof your livelihood is using technology.
"Look at any and all data you can get from your farm and livestock, then make decisions based on that. You’d be amazed at how you can increase profitability or efficiency with what you’ve already got.”
Knowing your numbers was the key to efficient farming, according to Andy Hardie, farm and equine commercial manager at IVC vets.
“Write down what is happening on your farm, set a target and make a plan to ensure it happens. Your vet should help you record, plan and celebrate when things work out,” he said.
Seth Wareing, business development manager at Stabiliser Cattle Company, added: “We have very little control over market prices, but we can monitor and control cost inputs in our farming systems. Know what you are spending, maximise efficiency and produce a quality product.”
Farmers need to ‘keep talking’ to those there to help and support them.
Emma Picton-Jones, founder of The DPJ Foundation, said: “My advice would be to talk and keep talking. Whether it is something good, bad, sad or in between. Keep talking – your mental health needs it.”