With high hopes, and a little nervous anticipation, JVFG members – from nine groups farming almost 13,000 hectares  – concentrated hard on Jamie Gwatkin’s analysis of overall performance for labour and machinery costs to produce the harvest of 2019. Who would win the coveted trophies?

“First up, it’s worth remembering the breadth of the country that JVFG members farm in. We go from right across East Anglia, through Lincolnshire, across Nottinghamshire, the Midlands, through Bucks and Northants to the Cotswolds, Hampshire and Dorset. It’s a really wide cross-section. This is the time to reflect on what’s down and of course what’s up.

On the up

Like every business, our farming businesses are seeing inflation. Fuel costs are up, compared with 2018, by 2.44 pence per litre. Costs of repairs have increased, as parts and labour are more expensive. However, with regards to labour – with more focus on efficiency -productivity is up. Non-productive time is down to just over 17% which is less than the average recorded across the last three years.

We’ve had discussion today about wanting to be responsible employers and look after our staff in order to have a sustainable workforce.

Standing down

Calculating standing cost of machinery important

JVFG monitoring of standing cost of machinery shows a drop.

For the first time the standing costs of machinery have fallen. This is due to machinery being kept for longer. But, this has led to higher repair bills.

Generally, though, across JVFG, we are keeping costs well-managed. Many of our businesses are making good progress. Of course, you could say that we all need to re-visit how we do things as things change. But it’s good to see that all JVFG members are heading in the right direction.

A game of two halves

Establishment costs in autumn 2018 were good, thanks to the weather. Looking at primary and secondary cultivations, drilling and rolling all together, we achieved a nine-year record low of an average of just over £84/ha. That’s more than 25% down on 2017!

In fact, we have had a three-year run of declining costs of establishment with cost reduction of 10-12% in some of the group.

How? I think that allocating time at a meeting to properly discuss drill choice and combination and strategy has really helped decision-making. We now have better drill combination selection, more min till, and better management. There is less ‘recreational’ cultivation. Choosing wider implements has increased efficiency by covering ground faster.

In contrast, harvest costs in 2019, hit a record high of over £101/ha. In fact, combining costs remained stable. It was the ‘stop-go’ grain carting trying to catch the weather cost us heavily.

Winning ways

It’s always a pleasure to highlight particular achievement and these are the winners this year:

JVFG trophy for winning performance

Trophy-hunting with JVFG: celebrating best performance.

Costs of Production Trophy – awarded to Tim Merry, JV Farming, for achieving costs (wheat and OSR combined) of £67/t

Establishment Trophy – awarded to Granta Farming for, with a change in machinery, achieving 15% cut in establishment costs 2010-19.

Most Impressive Combining Trophy – awarded to Landsmann LLP, achieved mainly through scaling back from two combines to one and making all the infrastructure changes, widening gateways and so on, for ease and speed of access.

We go together into 2020 with our businesses and our management style as prepared and informed as we can be.”