Get marketing sorted
By Robert Davies
PRODUCERS driven out of dairying by low prices must get their marketing right to make a success of other enterprises, warns one farmer who has diversified.
John Davies sold his 130 milkers in 1994, when the cost of leasing quota topped 20p/litre, and used the money to buy a second farm. The plan was to grow 121ha (300 acres) of cereals at Pantgwyn, Cardigan, feeding some through livestock and trading the rest.
Mr Davies, chairman of the NFUs Ceredigion county branch, said: "Even though much of the farm is registered for arable aid, it is impossible to make a reasonable margin selling [grain] to merchants."
Instead, he has built up a strong local trade in grain and straw. This year, any barley not sold for £70/t at the farm gate, or £18/t more than offered by traders, would be fed through cattle, he said. Neighbouring farmers were also willing to pay £100/ha (£40/acre) for feeding straw on the field.
"Wheat now goes at a good price to shooting clubs to feed game birds." Hard-pressed milk producers who have quit and have some land eligible for arable aid might follow his lead and consider growing forage crops on contract. This year, 22ha (55 acres) were planted to forage maize from farmer customers.
When a rental value was put on the land and arable aid was claimed, the informal arrangement generated a net income of £360/ha (£150/acre).
Flexible thinking was essential. Growing maize for other farmers was a good example of his philosophy of looking for marketing opportunities and adapting to exploit them. *
Former dairy farmer John Davies says new ventures need careful marketing.