Pembrokeshire Monitor Farm highlights importance of benchmarking

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Pembrokeshire farmer Tom Rees will bring the benefits of farmer-to-farmer learning and benchmarking closer to home, as one of the newly-appointed AHDB Monitor Farms.

It was his involvement in the previous AHDB Monitor Farm near Cardiff that convinced him to take on the role.

He said: “I felt that the Monitor Farm, especially the benchmarking, was a really good programme and I wanted to make sure the good work continues in Wales, this time in Pembrokeshire.

“Although we’re a small county of arable farmers there are some first-class businesses here. It’s our opportunity to make the most of the levy we pay.”

The big draw for Tom is definitely the benchmarking.

“Being part of the benchmarking group has given us the confidence to make some fairly big decisions already. We saved 35 per cent on our chemical input costs by changing from serviced agronomy to doing it ourselves.”

An initial worry for Tom was that his change in agronomy would affect his yield, but from the benchmarking activity he could see that the potential cost savings would outweigh a small reduction in yield.

“In the end, we didn’t lose any yield anyway, and as it happens I really enjoy doing our own agronomy.”

Tom’s next step will be to look at machinery and overhead costs. The Monitor Farm programme begins with a labour and machinery review, and Tom hopes that he can trim a percentage off his machinery costs every year, while also investigating the benefits of precision farming.

Compared with other parts of the country, Tom admits that his farm might look over-mechanised. However, it’s a difficult balance for him with an annual rainfall of 1,000mm and a very short window in which to turn crops around.

He said: “We need to try and deal with that, to make sure we get crops established quickly and on time to make the most of them.”

Other challenges which Tom is aiming to address as a Monitor Farmer include grass weed management, improving his grain marketing strategy and evaluating his crop rotation.

AHDB Monitor Farms bring together groups of farmers who want to improve their businesses by sharing performance information and best practice around a nationwide network of more than 30 host farms. Monitor Farms are part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which works with the industry to improve performance through knowledge exchange and benchmarking with AHDB’s Farmbench.

The launch event for the new Pembrokeshire Monitor Farm will take place on 27 June 2018.

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