Like many farmers in the county, I am looking forward to attending Livestock 2012 at the NEC this week, which now incorporates the Dairy Event, writes Caroline Bedell.
From past experience I know that I will be talking to farmers who are seriously looking at diversifying, either as a way out of the industry, or to help keep the farm going.
Given the current economic situation this is entirely understandable, but in many cases the answer can be as simple as looking at input costs to make your bottom line look a lot healthier without venturing into new markets.
There is little we can do about the vagaries of feed and fertiliser prices, but shopping around for some of your high cost items can often provide surprising savings. Farmers are a traditional bunch on the whole, and a good relationship can be a premium worth paying, but you should take the chance to make sure you a paying close to the current market rate.
Dairy farmers in particular should look at their energy bills and obtain some comparative quotes – the results can sometimes be quite astonishing. And don’t just look at alternative suppliers, consider alternative energy sources.
After a slow start, renewable energy is currently much in demand because the figures now add up and can represent a further saving – and even income – over a number of years. Even if you have to finance a renewable energy installation, you can save on payments by talking to lenders who understand farming. If, as is often the case, the expensive kit – whether panels, pumps or pylons – is imported, then talking to a specialist financial adviser may produce further savings as you can fix the foreign exchange rate at a beneficial point in time.
Energy savings obviously vary from farm to farm, but everyone needs to be insured. You will be well aware that the cheapest is not always the best, and a specialist insurer who knows farming is a must. If you have not had a recent review of your circumstances you should ask for one – and again a comparison would be useful. Even if your current insurer seems to be offering a good deal, ask if there are ways such as increasing on-farm security that may result in a lower premium (and greater peace of mind!).
This may all seem obvious and indeed it should be, but I have spoken to many farmers who have not questioned their current arrangements in a long time. In this age of technology things change daily, and what was a good deal a couple of years ago may well be bettered today.
Farmers are often too busy farming to look at the bigger picture. But every pound saved on ‘non-farming’ essentials means more stability for your business and more time to farm.
I will be visiting suppliers at Livestock 2012 and asking these questions. I strongly suggest that if you are going, you do likewise.
- Caroline Bedell is CLA Midland regional director