Complexity kills small businesses?

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently.
If all I did was grow one particular crop or concentrate on one particular enterprise then my life would be whole lot easier and most likely more profitable.
I think this is what has changed re small mixed farming businesses. Whether it’s sheep, cattle, cereals or break crops, it’s nothing like as simple as it used to be. You need health plans, integrated pest management, better storage etc etc. Each facet of the mixed farm has become a specialism itself, and TBH it’s easy to become Jack of all trades, master of none.
What’s the answer? Collaboration with other specialists? Let parts of the farm for different cropping specialisms? Or solider on spinning a lot of different plates at once?
I get the agronomic benefits of mixed farming, I really do, but commercially and logistically I find it harder to make it stack up especially if you want any time off at all.
 

Dead Rabbits

Member
Location
'Merica
Excessive and unnecessary regulation is the killer for small businesses.

Farming in particular has been driven to specialize by a number of different factors but doesn’t have to be specialized. It’s inherently more risky to only sell one thing. A diverse farm business typically takes more skill but has more potential for consistent returns.
 

Charles Quick

Member
BASE UK Member
Location
Somerset
I think around 80% of the profit in an enterprise can be achieved with around 20 - 30% of the effort and cost. The rest is diminishing returns toward chasing perfection.
So if I can run 4 or 5 reasonable enterprises in the time it takes to run 1 really good one, I'd choose the former.
I'm not saying it's what I actually do, but it's interesting to think about.
 

7610 super q

Member
Arable Farmer
The 3 crop rule has been binned. That's a start. Block crop my little bit with one single crop per year if I can. 2, maybe 3 visits from my spray contractor. One visit from the combine/ baler. Just one half artic load going off at most. One heap of grain, rather than 3. Rotational break renting ground out to a neighbour for spuds. As little machinery as I can get away with. I hope to eventually have just 6 implements.
 

Dead Rabbits

Member
Location
'Merica
Collaboration but finding someone with the same values is very difficult . There’s not enough money in the job really.
Partnership is a sinking ship
Disagree with that. If you want to sell commodities then yes you will need a certain scale to meet current salary expectations but partnerships between farmers like one supplying the livestock/labor and the other land is gaining in popularity I think.

Labor is a huge issue and if you are really good at managing people you will have a lot of options in agriculture. I know a family who operates their dairy on a farm that they don’t own. The land owner supplies just the land they own the facilities and cows. It’s ridiculously large but they started 25 years ago with 100 head.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
The 3 crop rule has been binned. That's a start. Block crop my little bit with one single crop per year if I can. 2, maybe 3 visits from my spray contractor. One visit from the combine/ baler. Just one half artic load going off at most. One heap of grain, rather than 3. Rotational break renting ground out to a neighbour for spuds. As little machinery as I can get away with. I hope to eventually have just 6 implements.
That’s the sort of thing I’m aiming for. When our small farm is less than the size of one of the estates fields then why would I worry or get hung about not having a mix of different crops and livestock? One van load of spray, much less overhead, time etc.

I can’t think of many other industries that make a virtue of having a very wide range of low volume products tying up a lot of capital in all the various infrastructure and machinery that might only be used for a couple of weeks a year.
 

vantage

Member
Location
Pembs
I have wondered why neighbouring farms didn't try a shared approach to machinery and labour. Buy a monster mixer wagon and pay a contractor to feed everyone's cows each morning instead of going out and buying one of everything and finding a bloke each to do it?
Alright in theory until it breaks down. Can usually scrounge a loader or a mixer if mine goes down.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
I might even be able to get to the point where my only piece of machinery is my phone.
But seriously I am unlikely to even get a contractor to come and do less than 50 acres nowadays, but my whole farm as a single crop would be worth them visiting if I decide my old machinery is no longer up to it. Worth the line spreader and fibrophos boys etc . But 10 or 12 acres? Forget it.
 
And my cousins big combine could the whole farm in 2 days but he wouldn’t be keen on visiting several times for several different crops.

Seems like you already have all the plans in place to a bit of a tie up? Pool your resources and even offer to work for him some of the time? No doubt he would appreciate the extra labour if needed and you would get away from using older kit for everything?
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
Judgement presently clouded by yet another weekend lathered in oil and grease doing the tractor brakes. It just never ends with an old fleet. If I was retired and it was a hobby it would be OK but relying on it for your living is tiresome.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
Seems like you already have all the plans in place to a bit of a tie up? Pool your resources and even offer to work for him some of the time? No doubt he would appreciate the extra labour if needed and you would get away from using older kit for everything?
I think that’s the plan realistically. Collaboration is coming. My cousin is even more OCD than I am though, so I probably wouldn’t do it right for him!!
 

LIVE - DEFRA SFI Janet Hughes “ask me anything” 19:00-20:00 20th September (Today)

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Hello, I’m Janet Hughes. I’m the Programme Director for the Future Farming and Countryside Programme in Defra – the programme that’s phasing out the Common Agricultural Policy and introducing new schemes and services for farmers.



Today (20 September) between 7pm-8pm, I and some of my colleagues will be answering your questions about our work including the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Farming in Protected Landscapes, and our test and trials.



We’ll try to answer at least 15 of your top voted questions, so please vote on the questions you’d most like me to answer.



You can read more about our Future Farming policy on our blog.



I’ve answered some of your questions previously: you can watch the videos on...
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