I have recently attended a number of meetings at our new Monitor Farm here in Northern Ireland.
These meetings have been well worthwhile and attended by a small group of like-minded farmers willing to openly discuss figures and farming practices.
I am just getting used to the new AHDB Farmbench programme, but so far I am finding it relatively straightforward and so hope to gain some useful information from it over the next couple of years.
At our first meeting it was interesting to see a range of yields, prices and input costs.
At first sight, I could see that there are a couple of areas where I need to improve, but also a couple where I am doing OK, so maybe shouldn’t be so hard on myself!
I can see, however, that as we study and discuss these figures in more detail and start to make decisions as a result, there are likely to be benefits for all of us.
Our most recent meeting covered a review of machinery costs. This is a big overhead cost on most farms, so we were encouraged to drill down into those costs in more detail.
I have some decisions to make in this area, as although I purchased a new seed drill this year, the last new tractor I bought was just over eight years ago.
Even with regular maintenance, wear and tear and depreciation carries on and there comes a point when you feel you have to renew.
The scary part is that the same tractor today costs at least £30,000 more – a huge increase of 42%.
My subsidy has remained the same, grain prices have bounced up and down and farm profitability has only improved marginally, mainly the fault of ever-increasing input costs.
Attention to detail is critical and so I hope to use some of the more detailed figures to help me make future purchasing decisions.
However, I suspect I won’t be announcing the purchase of a shiny new tractor anytime soon.
Meanwhile, my next focus is to apply some increasingly expensive fertiliser to winter crops to kick start the new growing year – and hope grain prices stay at their current level.
Robert Moore farms on the Molenan Estate in Northern Ireland, where his family have farmed for more than 200 years. He switched to arable farming in the 1990s, away from beef and sheep. He still has a small suckler herd on non-suitable arable land.