Farmer Focus: Arable fixed costs are too high

All winter cereal crops seem to have grown in the past month. They may have been helped by the 250mm of snow we experienced a fortnight before Christmas.

With some good banks and a reasonable level of rainfall, we are in a prime location here in Herefordshire to witness field run-off. So it is very pleasing to be able to report that I feel this year we are experiencing a lot less.

This is such an issue within the county that I feel really positive that the various prevention methods that have been adopted by many farmers in the area are making a real difference.  

See also: How to prevent glyphosate resistance in blackgrass

We recently had our local AHDB benchmarking meeting as part of the Monitor Farm programme. This gave us an opportunity as a group to benchmark our costs of production against one another.

Fixed costs

Once again, my fixed costs were too high and depreciation was a figure that really stood out. This has not been helped by the fact that in the past few years we have replaced all the prime equipment needed for an arable farm.

However, there is no reason why this equipment, with careful maintenance, can’t last 10 years. Even some of the most costly repair bills can look quite cheap compared with the amount depreciation is costing us.    

The benchmarking meeting also highlighted another area for improvement. Our nitrogen use in winter wheat was at the top end of the group. However, our yield was nearer the bottom end.

This emphasised to me that field potential, history, soil type and crop potential need to be taken into more careful consideration when devising a nitrogen plan.    

Lambing is under way once again; it seems to come round quicker each year. This year we hope to have tightened our lambing period with the use of teaser tups, but I still feel there are greater efficiencies to be had by an even tighter lambing period.

Our assortment of cover/catch/forage crops this year include rye and vetch, spring oats and vetch, stubble turnips, forage rape and Italian rye grass mix and short-term Italian rye grass ley.

The different crops will hopefully allow us to find a suitable forage that suits both the sheep and an arable rotation including oilseed rape.


Jack Hopkins is the assistant farm manager on a 730ha estate in North Herefordshire on predominantly silty clay loam soils. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, spring oats and peas, plus grassland that supports a flock of 1,100 ewes and 25 pedigree Hereford cattle.