How much is a mouse worth?

3 July 2015

How much is a mouse worth? Daft question? We’ll talk about it at the end of my blog. It’s not that daft after all.

If today’s sunshine is anything to go by – just  at grain fill with reasonable reserves of water in the medium to heavier soil – we just could be in for a bumper harvest. But then that’s not likely to help grain prices much.

The penny is dropping for many growers that they need to get a better handle on their cost of production and they are joining a CropBench+ Arable Business Group. However, we do have our detractors. “Your costs are your costs and you just have to pay,” and, “it’s all very well but any cost savings are blown away by a bad day’s grain selling,” are some of the comments I’ve had so far. While the first comment is largely akin to an African ostrich with trouble on the horizon, the second comment is more valid.

This hit home with me when, at a staff meeting at Stoneleigh, our grain market guru Jack Watts revealed that most growers in 2014 sold the bulk of their grain at the bottom of the market. Not near the bottom; at the bottom.

So what can we do as an organisation? How can we get better intelligence to the grain-selling grower to help them make a more informed decision? You may not sell at the top of the market, but at least you don’t sell at the bottom. First things first, get your cost of production understood with, yes, CropBench+. It’s a good, easy-to-use tool, free to levy payers and we’re not going to sell your details to the highest bidder.

If you are growing feed wheats for £170/tonne then you’ve some thinking to do around your costs. Cancel that fancy new cultivator called ‘The Desolator’ you saw at Cereals alleged to destroy black-grass in one pass, leading you to need a bigger tractor for a start. If you are at or below the average we used at Cereals, £135/t, then you need to sit back in your office chair like James Bond bad guy Blowfeld and have a think (white cat optional). When can I sell? Should I use options? Futures? A pool? What information, tools, and explanations do I need to pick up to better market my grain next year? Sure, we don’t have a crystal ball but you can ‘pick up’ intelligence that should help you act at the right time. Genuinely, email me:

Now then, that mouse. We have a wide range of combine harvesters within CropBench+, from a 1969 New Holland 1530 where the winter service cost £9, through to the very latest harvester with ‘Cabus Maximus Command Deck VI’. The humble mouse can level these two combines. Last year, a farmer shelled out £8,500 on a new wiring loom due to a family of mice living in a combine where there was ‘no time’ to clean it after harvest. Far more than the cost of having the combine professionally valeted!

Combine in shed

So, have a good harvest, go safe and clean that combine when you’re done.



Based at Ashkam Bryan near York, Harry grew up on a beef farm in his native north Wales. Subsequently, Harry developed an interest in farm machinery that took him around the world working in agriculture. Having managed a plant breeding farm near Cambridge for Monsanto, in 2005 Harry joined John Deere as Crop Systems Specialist, from where he was recruited by AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.