24 August 2001

LINCS GROWER HAS IRON GRIP ON COSTS

ONE grower who is in total control of his costs and is confident of his farms future is Andrew Jacklin.

But he is no barley baron with thousands of owned acres to spread his costs over. He farms 160ha (400 acres) of grade 3 land, 80% of which is owned, at Alvingham, near Louth, Lincs.

"We are tailoring our machinery costs and inputs to make a profit at £70/t. I dont intend growing one acre of wheat that makes a loss."

The cost of every operation on the farm is known down to the last penny, a discipline that comes from a business career first in agricultural machinery and then as a potato merchant. "I know we were using half a gallon of diesel an acre drilling last year. Ask some farmers that and they havent a clue."

Producing wheat costs him £500/ha (£200/acre), including every operation from cultivation to loading the lorry (see table). "I do all the work – the spraying, spreading, driving the combine. The only thing I dont do is the ploughing because a friend, who works for me part-time, drives the crawler while I am combining."

Plenty of machinery capacity means operations are timely, but second-hand purchasing and meticulous maintenance mean minimal depreciation.

For example, the farms 10-year-old 20m Frazier Agribuggy sprayer, bought three years ago for £10,000, allows Mr Jacklin to cover 100-120ha (250-300 acres) in a day. "It is one the most expensive bits of kit on the farm, but there is no reason why it shouldnt last another 10 years."

Nothing, not even cultivation equipment, stands outside. "Im fortunate to have had 20 years with spanners in my hands. I know 95% of machinery failures are through neglect or misuse."

Last autumn all wheat was drilled by Oct 4. Oilseed rape, Maris Bead beans and Princess peas complete the rotation. Both pulses are cleaned, bagged and sold retail. "There is a lot of work involved, but generally I can double what the merchants offer us."

Despite that initiative, and all the other operations on the farm, on his scale farming is only a part-time occupation, he says. "Nothing we grow is very intensive. I am very busy on the farm from July to September, but it is relatively easy the rest of the year."

Then his time is spent running two lorries and a potato merchanting business. In comparison with those enterprises, the farm is something of a relaxation.

"Im not one to add to the doom and gloom about farming. It is something I very much enjoy and hope to carry on."

Wheat growing costs

£/ha

Inputs

Seed 49

Fertiliser 87

Sprays & slug pellets 123

Total variable costs 259

Operating costs*

Subsoil/mole 15

Plough, disc & press x 2 40

Cultivate, drill & roll 63

Fertiliser spreading x 4 30

Spraying x 5 62

Combine, chop & cart 44

Total operating costs 254

Output 9.4t/ha x £70/t 658

Total costs 513

Profit/ha 145

* Includes depreciation and labour.