All-arable enterprises took big financial hit

28 June 2002

All-arable enterprises took big financial hit

THE profitability of all farm types suffered in 2000/01, but arable enterprises were hardest hit, according a recent report from Askham Bryan College, near York.

Every major crop showed a fall in output in the Yorks/ Cleveland region, reports the study which did not include the impact of foot-and-mouth.

Despite good average wheat yields, at 8.7t/ha (3.5t/acre), lower returns and falling support payments led to an 8% fall in farm output. Average barley yields of 6.6t/ha (2.7/acre) matched 1999/00 levels. But a drop in average price from £76/t to £69/t, plus a cut in support payments from £228/ha (£92/acre) to £211/ha (£85/acre) reduced output by 6%.

Potato and sugar beet growers fared little better after wet weather frustrated harvest. Sugar beet continued its downward trend, with only 70% of the yield achieved in 1992.

Potato outputs dropped by 4%, although a dramatic fall in yield was offset by an increase in price. This yield reduction was partly because many growers who were unable to get on their land in the autumn. Growers who managed to harvest their crops reported an average yield of 32t/ha (13t/acre).

Livestock producers achieved a modest 4% increase in farm output overall, with sheep and pigs showing the best returns.

Sheep output increased partly because of a rise in sales value. In 2000/01 the average return for finished lambs was £36 – a £3 improvement on the year.

Market returns also improved for pig producers with a £13/head rise in the finished pig price giving an average return of £74/pig.

Beef farmers suffered a £10 reduction in the price of beef cattle, with sales of finished animals averaging £474.

On dairy farms, the average herd studied in Yorks and Cleveland contained 97 cows producing a yield of 6730 litres/cow.

The biggest change was a 9% fall in livestock variable costs to an average of £58,192 per farm, compared with £64,640 for the 1999/00 financial year. The benefits are likely to be seen in this financial year, according to college researchers.

About 63% of total farm output came directly from the dairy herd, with 21% of income from other livestock and the remainder from crops and other sources.

Management and investment income remained negative albeit with a slight improvement on the previous year. Average milk returns fell by 6% to 16.7p/litre.

The impact of F&M is expected to become clear in the 2001/02 survey.

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