“My name is Oliver Stratford. I work for E.C. Drummond (Agriculture) Ltd. The main base is up in Herefordshire, near Ross-on Wye.
I look after about 6,500 acres in Hampshire, mainly combinable crops but moving towards energy crops for an Anaerobic Digester plant. We are now growing about 1,000 acres of whole crop rye and sugar beet for the AD plant on top of the combinable crops. It’s going into my fourth year down in Hampshire after starting in the Herefordshire base. We run the arable business with a relatively small team: myself, four full time staff plus 2 harvest students. The youngest of the full-time staff is 21 years old and does all the spraying and liquid fertiliser.
Joined up thinking with JVFG
We joined JVFG two years ago. This is our first full year of data inputting. Sam Drummond, the youngest of four Drummond brothers, knows Chris Middleditch (a Suffolk farm business in JVFG) very well. My passion is the nuts and bolts of what we are doing, probably more so than crop husbandry. I enjoy looking at how much it costs to do things. Whilst it is a bit of pain inputting all the data for JVFG benchmarking, performance analysis is something I really enjoy looking at.
So far so good
It’s been really good. I can now go back up to the farm in Herefordshire with evidence: we’re ahead on this and we’re a bit expensive here. For example, with last year’s data, from 2016, we can see we’re very expensive at harvest time. Maybe because of logistics and our grain stores, which are considered a limiting factor on the estate. So that was quite interesting.
Generally in business everyone thinks they have an idea of what everything costs but it is good to be able to see the numbers on a piece of paper reinforcing the facts. It really opens your eyes. I’ve already changed a few things so now the staff are allocating their time much better than they were. I get to know which implement, which machine, which block they are working on and opened my eyes to how much time is actually unallocated to a crop.
We try to feed in to our staff as much as possible the information of whether we are in profit or if we are struggling. We are probably viewed as under capacity for what we do, they and the machinery are working very hard to cover the ground that we have.
Another JVFG member, Tim Merry of JV Farming, came to the discussion this time together with his sprayer operator to hear the results of performance across the group. Attending meetings like this is part and parcel of getting and sharing information, making sure we are communicating with the team about how we’re doing and what we need to do different and better. We are very under capacity for what we do, our guys and the machinery are working very hard to cover the ground that we have.
The to-do list
For me it is a priority to keep on improving my understanding of what each operation costs to maximise efficiency. The evidence from this years JVFG analysis on sprayer costs has left me very comfortable in our decision to move to liquid fertiliser across the farm. It’s taken away all the unloading of lorries, lots of plastic bags and having a JCB tied up for too much of the time whilst also improving accuracy.
As you understand the system better, you get better at being able to allocate time, understand why it costs this or that and know what and when to spend more on – such as staff or machinery.”