21 December 2001

Even the top flocks need monitoring

EVEN the most efficient flocks need to monitor performance regularly to anticipate problems and to identify ways of improving margins.

David Croston, MLCs head of sheep strategy, told the WSS conference that outputs and inputs varied widely between farms.

A survey of 44 Welsh sheep farms showed that the most profitable enterprises produced more weight of lamb/ewe, controlled replacement costs better and kept a tight rein on both variable and fixed costs, he said. On the best one-third of farms production costs totalled 96p/kg liveweight, while the worst one-third paid out £1.81/kg.

Producers who are struggling to make a profit cannot solve their problems until they analysed and understood their true costs, said Mr Croston.

"The top one-third of flocks had lower costs and superior ewe productivity. A higher proportion of their variable costs/ewe is accounted for by feed and forage, which will have assisted their productivity.

"Likewise, labour costs as a proportion of total fixed costs were higher and virtually all of the top one-third of producers lambed indoors.

"The area of most concern is that into which high cost/low productivity producers fall."

Mr Croston urged producers to use the figures to benchmark their own sheep enterprises to pinpoint areas where costs could be cut, without reducing output. &#42