A love affair with benchmarking

Monday, 7 October 2019

“Some people just don’t what their cost of production is,” cereal farmer Alan Grant says, “but you have to measure what you are doing so you know where you can make changes.

“That’s why we benchmark, and honestly, we love it.”

Alan, whose family has farmed in Aberdeenshire since 1926, began benchmarking in 2011 after joining a business group attached to AHDB’s Aberdeen Monitor Farm.

He now uses AHDB’s cross sector tool Farmbench to compare his figures with other farmers, and not only has it given him a better understanding of his own business, he has also been able to make changes to improve his margins.

As well as taking on more land to contract farm, he also carries out other jobs on local farms, such as spraying, which allows him to justify the expensive machinery often needed to farm effectively today.

“Someone once said to me, if you buy a bigger tractor, you need to buy another farm. The kit nowadays is so expensive every farmer can’t own separate combines and tractors, the same machinery needs to be operating over larger areas, which is what we are now doing.” Alan says.

Another change Alan has made, along with other members of the business group, has been switching to liquid fertiliser, not only does he find it quicker, easier and cheaper, but it also avoids overlaps in the field.

“It really improves accuracy,” he says, “and you can put it on any time rather than having to wait for ideal conditions, which makes life much easier.”

Having been benchmarking for several years Alan has some tips for other farmers thinking about giving Farmbench a go.

“You need to be disciplined, make sure you get your numbers in by a certain date so you can meet with other farmers to compare and contrast.

“Attention to detail is key, the more you understand about your inputs and outputs the better. I’ve always noticed farmers with less land do better in terms of yield as they can really focus on the area they have.

“But remember to have fun, our get togethers aren’t just about figures but about learning from each other and having a laugh.”