In farming circles, November is normally the start of the winter round of conferences, events and a wide range of meetings from Business Groups and Monitor Farms to commercial companies showcasing their products for the coming season. Not so this year and farmer’s diaries will instead be filling up with invites to webinars, podcasts and virtual events – including Agri-EPI’s own webinar showcasing the benefits of technology at Parkend with Satellite Farmer, Brian Weatherup, on the 25th November.
Personally, I miss the face to face interaction of a “live” meeting, particularly in a smaller workshop format, where body language can signify so much and pull in completely different threads to a discussion. However, we are where we are and as Farm Business Managers it is vital to gather as much knowledge as possible from our peers and colleagues by whatever means are available.
In the last update I said that harvest has been varied across the country, but I hadn’t appreciated how varied until recently. NE Scotland has had a record harvest with average spring barley yields of over 8.5t/ha not uncommon and autumn drilled crops looking exceptional – yet a very different story in the south of the country. Whilst I have no doubt the weather is the main factor in this difference, I wonder if it’s the only one. Farmers in Aberdeenshire, where harvest moisture for wheat is regularly well above 20%, are used to growing cereals under challenging weather conditions – so are they routinely doing something different to mitigate the weather impact?
Perhaps the focus on virtual communication is an opportunity to “visit” a farm geographically remote from your own, see what they do differently and what areas could be applied to benefit your own farm. So when trawling through the on-line lists and invites, perhaps look to subjects and areas which may seem less relevant to your own farm.
November is also the time of year to carry out an in-depth review of the past season, whether it be crops or livestock – what worked, what didn’t work, what could have been done better and apply that to the planning for next season.
Opportunities for farm business managers
Another opportunity created by virtual communication is to use the time freed up to take this review and planning process a step further and look 5 years ahead. There will be significant changes taking place during this time initiated by Brexit, climate change and consumer habits.
Get your close advisors involved and have a think about what the farming environment might be like in 5 years’ time, how fit will your business be and what might you have to change to ensure you maintain a resilient business.
As the business environment will change, the level of technology available is likely going to change at an even greater rate and will be a key tool in maintaining a resilient business. You need to marry up technology to what you think your business will need to look like in 5 years’ time, investing in areas of your farm and business that you may not have considered in the past, but which opportunities have arisen through the combination of emerging technologies and changing circumstances.
There is one constant in business and that is change – you are either moving forwards against your peers or moving backwards against your peers – there is no such thing as standing still.
Change will create opportunities and by taking time to think and plan ahead now, you will be in the best position to capitalise on these opportunities when they come your way.
Gavin has a broad working experience in agriculture, having managed a large farming enterprise in Aberdeenshire including combinable crops, seed potatoes, pigs, poultry and 650 dairy cows producing milk for ice-cream through a robotic milking system. He then moved to manage an estate in Perthshire specialising in pedigree beef and combinable crops, as well as a country house hotel with shooting and fishing interests. Gavin worked at SAC before moving to AHDB where he worked with farmers in a Knowledge Exchange role to broaden their business management skills and, as he joined Agri-EPI, oversees all Satellite Farm Network activity.