Farmer Focus: Most valuable business additions in 2016

We asked our 12 Farmer Focus writers what they had done in 2016 to help add value to the farm businesses.

As well as diversifying into new enterprises, our contributors have been investing in new equipment to help increase animal health and production and one writer has been focusing heavily on genetics to lift the meat yield of his next crop of lambs.

Here’s a round-up of what everyone has done.

Jim BearyJim Beary, Staffordshire

Leasing three Focus Prime rams directly from the processor will help us to get lambs away more quickly and with an improved meat yield. It will also put us at the front of the queue when booking lambs in.

Added to this, the cost of the rams is spread out over several years and the arrangement has further strengthened our relationship with the processor that pays us for our lambs.

See also: Read more from our Farmer Focus writers

Matthew BrownleeMatthew Brownlee, Armagh

This year on our farm we added a new enterprise to the business by starting to fatten pigs.

We do this for JMW Farms,which is a large pig producer operating throughout the UK and Ireland.

This enterprise enabled us to invest in a sound business model that will provide our business with a guaranteed income based on targeted pig performance.

We decided to look at another enterprise because of constant fluctuations in beef price, the difficulty of buying cattle to fatten and not knowing what beef price would be when these cattle are ready three months later.

Simon BainbridgeSimon Bainbridge, Northumberland

This year and for the next few years I am hoping our significant investment into organic free-range egg production will add value to our business. 

Not just financially, but also by adding value through extra employment locally, new skills, new business contacts, valuable manure as well adding another string to our business bow so we are less reliant on red meat and brown envelopes. 

We are hoping for excellent value added on all levels.

John ScotJohn Scott, Ross-shire

The main thing that added value to our business this year was buying a 120ha block of land next door.

Opportunities to expand over the fence often only arise once in a lifetime, so grabbing this one has been really important for us as a family.

We are committed to growing our livestock and cereal enterprises, and this block will let us do that and give us diversification opportunities.

Jessica McIsaacJessica McIsaac, California

On our dairy farm the single best thing we did to increase profits was to add a pasteuriser.

A fairly simple, self-sufficient machine was a relatively low cost considering the big effect it has haf on our farm.

The pasteurisation, controlled amount and temperature of feed, and clean, in-place maintenance has been welcome to our calf-raising programme.

Gary MitchellGary Mitchell, Stranraer

The best thing we bought was a second-hand self-propelled feeder wagon. 

It has made feeding operations so much more simple and there are fewer repairs, especially where a telehandler is concerned.

In one year the machine has done 1,500 hours, when before we would have put 1,500 hours on a tractor and  1,500 hours on the telehandler just for feeding operation. Operator comfort is fantastic and also very accurate for feeding. 

Gary YeomansGary Yeomans, Abergavenny

We have always managed with a variety of excellent part-time milkers and relief staff.

This year we have taken on a local lad who had approached us looking for full-time farmwork.

Dimitri has proved to be hard-working, keen and flexible. He is good with stock and competent with machinery.

Having him on farm full-time has allowed us to keep on top of routine jobs and get those extra things done that we never had time to do previously.

Tony BaylesTony Bayles, Norfolk

There is one clear factor that has added value this year and that is staff.  

I’m as guilty as anyone in this business of not always fully appreciating the importance of a trained, motivated and reliable team of employees.

The past 12 months have seen a lot of changes in how the farm is run and organised and without them we would not have achieved our goals.

Brian YatesBrian and Sheila Yates , Kirkcudbrightshire

Relocating the old feed shed and having the cows move in has created double the space as well as creating an extra 30 cubicles.

The extra space and new smooth coating in the feed area have resulted in a lot less competition at the feed barrier, which has led to less fighting, better intakes and therefore more milk. This is bound to have added value to our business.

Kate MorganKate Morgan, East Yorkshire

After a very tough start to the year, the pig industry didn’t look as if it was going to recover anytime soon.

However, Brexit came along and our fortunes instantly changed. It was mainly brought about by the weakness of the pound, which continues to push our price up.

Imports have become more expensive than British high-welfare pork and has meant retailers are demanding more and more British produce. Long may it last!   

Matt and Pip SmithMatt and Pip Smith, Cornwall

Installing the Kiwitech temporary electric fencing system has allowed us to sub-divide our fields into cells very quickly and easily to make the most of our pasture, which is one of our most valuable resources. 

It was brilliant in the weeks before the shearing world record attempt, allowing us to ration out the grass wedge while we carried about 2,300 ewes and 3,000 lambs on 105ha.    

Mark and Helen WilliamsMark and Helen Williams, Welshpool

Since investing in our lamb weigh scales we have been able to maximise the potential of our lambs.

It is very surprising how much extra money we get from that bit of extra weight.

You can have two lambs looking very similar, but the weight difference can be very significant.