Efficient farming in East Anglia

With spring (finally) in the air and the first swallows back on farms across East Anglia this week, it has given me a chance to reflect on the in-built efficiency that swallows must have for their migration or darting around the farm yard and how that compares to the efficiency discussions we have had between our Arable Business Group members this year.

Following the benchmarking discussion, many of our groups this year were presented with cropping for an arable farm, typical of the area, with similar soil types, part owned, part rented and fields located not too far apart.

Here is your example:

Home Farm, East Anglia

Total size: 1,308ha

  • Winter wheat = 813ha (Milling = 454ha; Feed = 359ha)
  • Winter barley = 273ha
  • Spring barley = 94 ha
  • Winter beans = 106ha
  • Spring beans = 22ha

The group were then asked what machinery and labour they would need for this farm to run effectively.

What would you say? How many combines, sprayers, tractors, drills, staff would you have to run this farm?

For this particular scenario, this group debated and discussed between them and came up with the following requirements:

  • 1 x combine
  • 1 x self-propelled sprayer (solid fertiliser used when possible)
  • 1 x tracked tractor
  • 2 x 200hp tractors
  • 1 x large telehandler
  • 2 x drills
  • 3 x full time + 2 x harvest employees

It was then revealed to the group this this was their total farm size and cropping between them all, divided in two….and between them, they had many, many more tractors, combines, sprayers and staff in the room!

What did the discussion show? Yes, there are real-life practical farming considerations involved, not least the distance between fields, the weather, establishment method, cost of machinery and more, that may not make this system possible.

However, with labour and machinery costs one of the key focus areas for cost reduction going forwards, is this more of a model that we will be working forwards? Especially post-BPS subsidies if that does come to fruition. Are there areas that we can be thinking about doing now to start moving along these lines – machinery sharing, joint ventures, contracted operations?

At the end of the day, personal relationships between all parties are the key to making this a success, but maybe the need to work together with future policy shifts will enable this to be a productive, profitable and collaborative future?

Teresa Meadows

Teresa Meadows

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