Take the emotion out of farm decisions

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

One Somerset farmer wants to run his business with his head, not his heart.

Farming can be an emotive topic but for arable farmer Richard Payne it’s all about using the right data to make the right decisions.

Key for Richard is benchmarking with AHDB’s Farmbench – comparing costs of farming with a group a like-minded farmers to see where each business could be making improvements and savings. This financial data, together with yield maps, phosphorous (P), potassium (K) and pH maps, and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imaging, gives Richard a solid ground for business decisions.

“The reality of the figures helps take some of the emotion out of difficult decisions,” Richard said.

He farms 280ha at Manor Farm in Heathfield and hosts the AHDB Monitor Farm group for Taunton. Richard held a summer open day for the Monitor Farm group on Tuesday 9 July.

He said: “We had a great discussion about how to use the data we’ve got. There weren’t any concrete answers but it has given us plenty to think about.

“We did all agree that would be good to work out how to do gross margin maps.”

A gross margin map would show which areas of individual fields were generating a margin sufficient to cover the fixed costs of the business as they stand.

“The next question, though, is to know at what level of margin you start to alter your cropping. You have to make sure that you don’t transfer the problem from one part of the farm to another, like if you put flower margins around the field then the headlands would just be further in the field.

“And we are also still strongly considering a joint venture on machinery,” Richard added.

Richard also emphasised that it’s important not to make decisions on just one year’s data.

This autumn Richard will being trying out more direct drilling, using existing kit, and also sowing cover crops in front of spring barley or potatoes.

The next meeting of the Taunton Monitor Farm will be on 7 November 2019. 

For more information about the Monitor Farm meetings, contact Philip Dolbear, philip.dolbear@ahdb.org.uk