Farmer Focus: Time we started talking about profit and loss

So how is your profit? Reading the business papers, I see the world’s largest manufacturer of condoms has posted 33% profit on turnover. 

We are doing 4%. I would like to get to 8% before any subsidy.

Most businesses are looking for 20% and even highly capitalised companies want 10%. Many aim for a 10% return on capital employed. Even if you remove the value of the farmhouse, we don’t make a 1% return on capital – so why are we so low? 

See also: How outwintering cut suckler farm costs to 243p/kg

As a forage farm with very little machinery, the stored forage costs are easy to work out. New this year is the maize at £19/tonne for 400t. This is cheap feed, although we are still waiting for the analysis. 

The 400t of clamped grass came in at £25.50/t. We are pretty good at minimising waste. I haven’t yet worked out grazed grass costs. This is a bit harder, with clover leys here and rented permanent pasture. 

Our fertiliser use is very low at 10kg/ha nitrogen on the home farm and 80kg/ha on rented ground. Farm yard manure (FYM) is expensive to spread but almost invaluable in enhanced productivity at home.

A big expense this year has been the 44ha of cover crops grown on our landlord’s arable ground. Unfortunately, they are very disappointing. We were hoping for 1,200 grazing days/ha but are getting only 500. 

Until we scan the ewes, I will hold off judgment, but, realistically, at a cost of £5,057, it cannot be deemed economical. Hopefully, there will be a useful bit of fertility put back into the soil. 

Our profit includes subsidy, which, although small, is a large chunk of the profit. One thing I think is guaranteed is that the subsidy will be removed faster that we’ve been told – I wouldn’t trust politicians!

Calving has gone from bad to awful. Three caesareans in a row have happened due to backwards presentation in heifers. 

Unfortunately, one calf ran out of oxygen, which you have to accept, but then the heifer died five hours later due to bleeding out into the uterus. 

This is unacceptable in an elected caesarean. We always try to make a quick decision to maximise the results. 

Away from the farm, I just hope things calm down soon in the wider world.

James and Belinda Kimber farm 850 commercial and pedigree sheep and 30 pedigree Simmental and Charolais cattle in Wiltshire across 95ha (45ha owned) with the help of their children, Josh, Izzy and Richard. James also runs a foot-trimming business and Belinda has a B&B.