BDG member uses benchmarking data to improve enterprise

BDG SHEEP RI Farm
PERFORMANCE: CAFRE Beef and Sheep Adviser Nigel Gould discussing flock performance at a recent BDG meeting on Robert Walker’s farm near Omagh.

By Nigel Gould, CAFRE, Beef and Sheep Adviser

A Business Development Group (BDG) meeting was held recently on the farm of Robert Walker near Omagh.

Robert, along with his son Graeme, run a flock of approximately 150 ewes, with replacements all homebred and lambed down as year olds.

Robert has used CAFRE benchmarking to measure his farm business performance for the past three years. CAFRE offers this confidential free service to all BDG members.

Physical and financial data is collected and a benchmarking report generated. This report is used to compare the farm’s performance (across a number of physical and financial areas) with the farm’s performance from previous years and is also compared against other similar farm enterprises.

Robert has used his benchmarking data to compare how his farm enterprise is performing relative to the average and top 25 per cent of Northern Ireland benchmarked farms. This has helped him to identify the strengths and areas for improvement within his business and has allowed him to make decisions and set targets based on real data.

One of the targets Robert set was to try and increase the number of lambs weaned per ewe. Robert’s most recent benchmarking report shows that the number of lambs weaned per ewe has increase from 1.49 to 1.70 per ewe over the past two years. This has helped to deliver an increase in output of £22 per ewe.

Although Robert’s sheep enterprise gross margin was higher than average, the quantity of concentrates fed was more than double that of the average farm for the previous two years. This prompted Robert to focus on reducing the quantity of concentrates fed in the diet last year by around 50 per cent. This has been achieved by increasing the quantity of quality grazed grass in the diet with no adverse effect on lamb growth rates and performance.

It is anticipated that this reduction in concentrate usage will further increase the gross margin being generated which will be evident when next year’s benchmarking report is produced.

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