Using data to make informed decisions in Pembrokeshire

Farmers at AHDB’s Pembrokeshire Monitor Farm meeting on 6 February learned how to get detailed machinery costs, to help their future decision-making.

Led by AHDB machinery guru Harry Henderson and James Taylor from Strutt & Parker, the 15 farmers talked through how they could put accurate, detailed costs against their farm labour and machinery.

Tom Rees, the Monitor Farm host who farms at Dudwell, bravely displayed his own machinery costs to help get the group started.

He said: “I found the machinery review very interesting. It was a lot more thorough than I thought it would be!

“I was nervous before doing the review, because I thought, being a small farm, that our machinery costs would be fairly high because we don’t have the area to spread it over. But what became apparent once we started getting the results of our own machinery review back, was that by using large kit, running it for a long time and doing repairs in-house – this makes economic sense for us.”

James Turner used data from the other 21 AHDB Monitor Farms which had also done a machinery and labour costs review, to help put some of the figures in context.

With these 22 sets of information, James pulled out some characteristics of the farms with the lowest 25 per cent of costs:

  • Depreciation below £63/ha
  • Low repair costs through tactical hiring and experience
  • Diesel use below 100 L/ha
  • Farm size 500 – 1,000 ha

James did add a caveat, however: “Only 22 farms have done this review so far, so it will be interesting when we get more data. But the information is still a good discussion point anyway.”

Tom’s total arable labour and machinery cost, at £403/ha, was around the average for all 22 farms. He keeps machinery and implement costs extremely low because the family can do a lot of the repairs themselves. But, Tom’s total arable labour costs are high in comparison with the group.

Harry Henderson, AHDB, said: “Every farm is different. There’s no single strategy to suit everyone. It’s important to bear in mind that having the lowest possible costs isn’t necessarily the aim – machinery also needs to be reliable and fit for purpose.

“The important thing is to do the review and start using the data to make informed decisions.”

The next meeting at AHDB’s Pembrokeshire Monitor Farm will be in the summer, and all farmers are welcome.

For more information about getting involved, contact AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager Richard Meredith on


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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.