With bated breath, JVFG members meet to hear the results of the most detailed analysis of their costs of Harvest 2016. Together their farming operations now cover 13,000 hectares of farmland. Their progress in retaining or improving profitability through the last year shines a bright light on what is possible in these turbulent times.

Crunching statistics

In November all member businesses uploaded the carefully recorded data on machinery and labour use.

JVFG consultant Jamie Gwatkin

JVFG consultant Jamie Gwatkin announces 2016 benchmarked news headlines.

Within weeks, JVFG consultant Jamie Gwatkin has the bundle of benchmarked news and developments on progress – and disappointment – to share with the whole group at their December meeting. His headlines included:

  • group Harvest 2016 results show a fall in establishment costs
  • yields are down more than 10% across the group
  • two members grew wheat for less than £100/tonne including variable costs
  • real time machinery running costs now available to JVFG members online
  • contracting in combines is cheaper than running one in-house

Ahead of the game

Within the group there is a lot of interest in the rankings of which businesses performed better and best.

Several are singled out for particular signs of progress:

JVFG members (from left) Tim Merry, Antony Pearce and Charles Matt

JVFG members (from left) Tim Merry, Antony Pearce and Charles Matt all have success to be satisfied with

  • JV Farming most improved stubble to stubble machinery costs – down 50% since 2013
  • Pelham Farming is best at cost reduction of depreciation by matching main two tractors to optimise implement usage
  • Landsman Farming has greatest reduction in combine costs – down 50% since 2014
  • Brixworth Farming has lowest cost for crop of barley through better productivity achieved partly by switch of chaser bin manufacturer during harvest
  • Symington Farms continues to show that with JVFG membership, and lessons learned, costs fall

Digging deeper through discussion

With the numbers and trends exposed, JVFG members always get down to some detailed discussion. Their top topics this time include:

  • Up’s and Down’s – area of winter wheat and winter barley up while winter and summer oilseed rape down. Winter oilseed rape will dive dramatically in 2017
  • More with more – taking on additional land while taking existing marginal land out of production can be a way to minimise risk
  • Aggregate marginal gains – focus on improvement in every facet of farming is the only guaranteed method to protect profitability post-Brexit

Strength and resolve in numbers

In an era of depressed crop returns and battered morale, the benefits of being a member of elite benchmarking with JVFG shines through. With the battle against blackgrass and pressure on prices likely to intensify and costs of inputs probably to increase, every JVFG member feels forewarned, forearmed and informed about their choices. They can then make the correct choice in order to take their business in the right direction.