Recent analysis by AHDB of the characteristics of the UK’s top-performing farms confirms many of the principles – and results – that JVFG has delivered for a decade.

As the nation’s farmers count the cost of the weather and their decision-making to their 2018 harvests, attention is once more being focussed on what it takes to stay ahead in a tough year weather wise, let alone in a climate of economic uncertainty.

AHDB has invested a lot in trying to discover how the top 25 per cent of farm businesses “in terms of their ability to turn inputs into outputs remain profitable”. The answers they find are no surprise to JVFG.

Figure of eight signposts the features of JVFG

The report picks out eight factors shown by successful farmers. In these is included ‘‘to compare yourself with others and gather information’’. This is exactly what JVFG enables our members to do, says JVFG Tim Merry. “Through the detailed data we collate and analyse. From this benchmarking and regular discussion at our meetings JVFG members can cover off another five on the AHDB list including focus on details, minimise overhead costs, set goals and budgets, have a mindset for change and innovation and continually improve people management. The AHDB report outlines to me what are some key and simple fundamental points in any business: understand your strengths and weaknesses and take action where necessary. Attention to detail and data management all play a part in successful management. Often both are overlooked. But it will be the well-structured businesses who identify these points that will lead the way. No longer can we continue farming based around the principle of “because we’ve always done it like this”.

All top farmers benchmark

Formal or even informal comparison of performance is essential to be a top performer, according to AHDB. So why don’t all farmers do it? Answers could include that it requires effort, needs sustained logging of costs to accrue the data required and knowing who to compare with. But it may also be that many farmers do not want to face up to the evidence that cost or technique comparisons present them with. Nor do they have the energy or imagination to instigate change, or even many changes, in their business. JVFG consultant Jamie Gwatkin always advocates analysis. “Monitoring performance, analysing data, implementing improvements, and reviewing the effects of any change – these are key to future success.”

No option but to analyse

We farm in an era of technical, mechanical and chemical innovation. We have never had more opportunities for information to help decision-making than we have now. Yet it seems there is a fundamental problem in making best use of the machinery, manpower and inputs at our disposal.

“More than 70% of the difference between top and bottom quartile farmers is due to decisions made by the farmer”, says AHDB, in the background to their report. A first step to being a better decision-maker, could be deciding to join JVFG. That could prove to be the best decision an arable farm could make.

Read the full report “Preparing for change: the characteristics of top-performing farms

Experience the business benefits of JVFG by joining us at our next meeting.