Survey of farm managers’ pay shows 12% rise in two years

UK farm manager salaries have more or less kept pace with inflation in the past two years, rising by an average of 12% to £59,695, but some businesses are paying more than £100,000 for workers in this role.

The latest survey from the Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM) shows that 59% of managers are now paid between £40,000 and £70,000 for responsibilities that range from solely managing day-to-day activities on a farm, through staff recruitment, capital investment and wider estate management.

According to the research, the average salary of £59,695 is made up of a gross salary of £54,753 and £4,941 in profit shares and bonuses.

See also: Farm managers’ award-winning ways with staff

In 2022, when the survey was last carried out, that figure was £53,306.

Graham Redman, a partner at The Andersons Centre and co-author of the survey report, says that although wage growth of 12% seems sizeable, it comes against a backdrop of two years of high inflation, which averaged 10.5% in 2022 and 3.9% in 2023.

“Wage growth comes pretty close to the consumer price index over that two-year period, but this is an average figure. There are individuals who will have seen their salaries rise further.”

Non-cash benefits such as accommodation, recompense for household bills and the use of a farm vehicle can add another £11,493 to the value of their job, up from £10,766 in 2022.

A third also earn income from other sources, most often from properties they rent out.

Salary levels for employees in managerial positions follow the trajectory of farm businesses becoming more complex, with managers making decisions that demand high levels of competence.

Institute of Agricultural Management farm manager survey 2023






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What has changed significantly in the past decade is the age of farm managers – the number who are younger than 40 has trebled to 47% since 2014.

Graham says the reasons could be that more younger people are now attracted to the role, or greater numbers are not staying in the job for their entire career, or are retiring early.

“While we can’t reach a conclusion from the information supplied in the survey, it is certainly encouraging that, while the average age of a UK farmer is 59, the people making management decisions appear to be getting younger,” he says.

What has not changed since 2022 is the low percentage of women in managerial roles – accounting for just 5% of the total number.

In common with senior jobs in other industries, qualifications now carry greater weight for workers eyeing managerial roles in agriculture.

The year-on-year increase in the proportion of farm managers with degrees continues – 67% now have such a qualification, up from 60% in 2022 and 34% in 2014.

All other managers in the 2024 survey, who are mostly members of the IAgrM, were educated to diploma level, and it is in fact this group that earns the most, with salaries £4,000 higher than their contemporaries with degrees.

The survey authors suggest that this may be linked to age, as older farm managers are more likely to have diplomas, and a managerial position requires “a person of that calibre”.

One of the authors, IAgrM director Victoria Bywater, said the current expectation for qualifications could reflect the level of sophistication of modern farm businesses, requiring complex management skills.

At 77%, she said there had never been a greater proportion of managers embarking on post-education management and leadership training.

However, experience continues to be the major driver for wage growth – earning power is clearly shown to rise with levels of experience.

Key facts

  • 14% manage more than 3,000ha, almost double the land base they looked after in 2014
  • Less than one-third are managing a farm of less than 800ha
  • Salaries rise according to farm size, the complexity of the business, and number of workers it employs
  • All farm managers who responded to the survey do some level of physical work, but for the majority it takes up less than 25% of their time
  • The highest earners do the least amount of manual work
  • For workers seeking a farm manager position, they are most likely to find that role in central, southern and eastern England, where 87% of survey respondents are based
  • The majority of those oversee cropping farms, while 32% work in a mixed farming business

Salaries and experience

Managers with more than 10 years’ experience are the top earners on a salary basis, averaging just over £70,000.

Those with fewer than five years’ experience earn an average of £43,131, rising to £48,658 for managers in that role for five to 10 years.

However, the link between experience and income plateaus at 15 years – as the survey shows experience makes little difference to salary levels beyond that.

Mr Redman points out this is not specific to farm manager roles.

“There is good research to show that it is the first few years of experience in a job that are the most useful,” he said.

The most experienced farm managers (those with more than 20 years) earn the highest salary, while those aged 60 or older are on an average salary of £54,345.

By age profile, it is managers in their 50s who command the highest salaries, with an income averaging £73,946.

Despite employers giving weight to experience, nearly a quarter of farm managers have had their current level of responsibility for fewer than five years and 47% for fewer than 10 years.

“If a farm manager’s career could span, say, 40 years, then you would expect 12.5% of managers to have less than five years’ experience and a quarter to have less than 10 years,” the authors suggest in their survey report.

IAgrM membership

Managers who are IAgrM members are shown to earn nearly £9,000 more than those who are not.

What is not clear from the survey is why that is the case.

The survey authors question whether it is membership itself that commands higher wages, or whether membership makes a manager worth more.

They also suggest that it could be that workers who have greater management responsibilities are more likely to be members of a professional body.

The Farm managers in 2024, their jobs and their pay survey was compiled by:

  • Richard Crane – manager of the central and south-east region of the Farm Business Survey for Promar International
  • Graham Redman – a partner of The Andersons Centre, a director of Agro Business Consultants and editor of The John Nix Farm Management Pocketbook
  • Victoria Bywater – director of IAgrM.