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Case Studies > Fairfield Farms

Fife


Case Study Fairfield Farms Fife www.helpingithappen.co.uk
Case Study Fairfield Farms

Since taking over operational control of Fairfield Farms, I have increased the total farmed area from 800 to over 1,250 hectares of full mixed farming. This includes enterprises of Beef Suckler, Ewes, Cereals and Potatoes. The business also operates a strong contracting arm. Upon first taking over, I have streamlined the business and modernised not only the equipment but my management style and my use of data, in order that I was able to flip what I considered to be massive uncertainty into a positive direction and outcome for the business.

The business employs six people. This is a relatively high number of employees for 1,250ha but the arable, beef/sheep and potato enterprises complement each other and provide a constant supply of work.

By using smaller sized tractors in larger numbers, the vagaries of the weather impact upon us less – smaller power units can travel on/above the ground with ease, ensuring that our window of operations is wider. I also ensure that the four main tractors can cope with all the main implements, are vario transmission and the drivers are all trained up to be able to manage more than their usual job/implement - enabling me to drop two labour units and increase productivity.

When it comes to the tractor fleet, I also opt for the largest tyre size I can to improve the ease of getting onto ground and reducing compaction. I also chose front PTOs on our tractors. Cutting for between 5,000 and 6,000 silage bales a year was previously done with a rear mower, but with the addition of a front mower the workload was halved.

Variety choice for the enterprises has seen an uplift in yields too. I sat various qualifications and now better understand the nutritional needs of the plants we are growing, but in turn I have been able to save a lot of money on buying the right fertiliser. It is about getting the right balance and value out of every product and that the cheapest choice isn’t always the best choice. Two years ago I upgraded the combine, and went from two down to one. The combine has also come with full telematics and yield mapping and we are able to pick and choose which parts of fields need attention or can be used for environmental commitments. Why drill a crop in a marginal piece of ground that won't make you money?

On the livestock side of the farm, we have seen huge benefits from keeping the herd in high health and once again, software plays a key role - with nutrient mapping of the grazing fields. Technology also demonstrates its worth with regard to breeding in that livestock databases make comments and scoring easy and assist in the selection of suitable cows. We out-winter our cattle which naturally generates a cost saving but has also dramatically improved the soils and the increased organic matter.

I believe that it’s a common misconception for farmers to believe that it is only those who sell direct to the public who should understand marketing. This could not be further from the truth. I regularly talk with grain traders and read market reviews to understand commodity values and base my marketing strategy around that.

My market is also buying in inputs, and I use similar strategies to purchases forward fertilisers, chemicals and seed. As with all commodity sales from the farm, it would be nice to hit the highs, but more importantly I feel it is much better not to hit the lows, and I try and ensure this proactively!

Our mixed farming is about doing the best with what you’ve got rather than trying to shoehorn in an enterprise onto ground that isn't suitable. The benefits that the business has gained are immeasurable. The ability to empower yourself to make informed decisions rather than relying on sales people must be top of the list.

I am very fortunate to sit on both the AHDB Recommended List Committee for Barley and Oats as well as the Cereals and Oilseeds Research & Knowledge Exchange committee. I also joined the local AHDB Benchmarking group, while taking a management role in the Monitor Farm, , and it has given me valuable insight into ways to trim fat out of the business. Benchmarking is all about the numbers, but never about the numbers! 

None of us know all the answers, but to be open to new ideas and being able to look at problems from another perspective is invaluable. We are not going to get one thing that solves all our problems, but if we get lots of little gains here and there, they all add up!

Scottish Land & Estates
Stuart House, Eskmills Business Park, Musselburgh, EH21 7PB

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