Outside the weather was foggy. But inside the meeting room at the Essex farm, where JVFG benchmarked results of all labour and machinery costs for Harvest 2018 were revealed, the way ahead was crystal clear.
Record, input, analyse. Repeat.
Fifteen representatives of joint venture farming businesses gathered at the headquarters of Granta Farming to hear how the data they have been recording and entering into the revamped JVFG benchmarking software had been analysed.
They intently listened to JVFG consultant Jamie Gwatkin “Where we are headed now it has never been more important to know your costs, and where and how to reduce them”, he advised. “The point of today is to discover what we can learn from each other”.
Whilst some farming eyes are on the economic uncertainty in the months ahead, for JVFG the priority is to focus on the facts at hand in the detailed reports, extracted by Jamie Gwatkin, from the data and illustrated with twenty graphs for the whole group to see where their business ranks against the others.
The results of the number-crunching are fascinating. Over 110,000 hours of labour were recorded for all work to produce the 2018 harvest by joint venture businesses. However, a high proportion was not allocated to specific crop or task, leading to a discussion on resolve to better allocate time worked in order to better assess labour efficiency.
Increased fuel prices and higher machinery costs (purchase/lease and maintenance) were common factors across all businesses. Standing machinery costs have risen to over £121/hectare in 2018 across JVFG, 25% higher than three years ago. “These are costs that are eroding budgets all the time.”, said Gwatkin. “But better work rates, keeping machinery for longer and better harvest mean overall the businesses are coming closer together in terms of performance which shows you must be learning from each other.”
Ahead of the pack
Among all the results, there are three that are particularly coveted: the 2018 Challenge Cups. The trophy for the best cost of production went to Jamie Symington of L Symington Farms, Norfolk. “My aim for joining this group was to measure the efficiency of the arable part of my business by comparing it with the best”, he remembers. Now the other members pointed out Jamie has the satisfaction of beating them at their own game.
Richard Hartley, of Manor Farms LLP in the Cotswolds, took the award for the best costs of combining. His cost-cutting approach with a leased machine gave many of the other businesses ‘food for combine strategy thought’.
For the third successive year Tim Merry of JV Farming in Dorset took the trophy for best costs of establishment with his consistently successful Vaderstad drill strategy leading the field.
Team work comes out on top
More and more of the joint ventures involve their teams in scrutinising the data and coming to the group meetings. This time we had assistant managers, machinery operators and office managers in attendance. They are all recognised for their key roles in recording and inputting the data, as well as using the benchmarked results for better decision-making and carrying through operational changes.
James Whatty, Assistant Manager at Landsman Farming, had his first experience of discussing the latest group benchmarked results. “From an operational perspective it is so interesting to see the difference between the costs, for example, of running different machines, to see the merits of smaller v. bigger machines, and that they can still compete. It has also reinforced to me that is so important to have the other processes and support in place, for spraying for example. I see support is just as important as actually spraying, if you want to be competitive.”
A successful joint venture is a joint effort, in every way. Tim Merry, of JV Farming, wanted to attribute business success to team effort. “Our results reiterate that, as a business, we are structured really well. They also show the length my team go to, their understanding of the costs of everything we do, to create the output we achieve.”
Dates of JVFG meetings 2019 have been set. To attend one of our events or to see how joining JVFG could benefit your joint venture business do get in touch.