Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Farm Bench: being prepared is the secret

Doreen Anderson, AHDB’s Farm Benchmarking Manager, gives us an insight into,the new-look Farm Bench, cost of production tool, and how it can help your farm business. 

Farmbench is a whole-farm benchmarking programme from AHDB. It is user-friendly and intuitive and will help you to understand and compare your full costs of production at both enterprise and farm level.

This new system replaces AHDB’s sector specific benchmarking programmes and will help farmers measure and manage their whole-farm performance. Through Farmbench farmers can learn from others, compare costs and identify best practice. Farmbench is now live for beef and lamb, potatoes, cereals and oilseeds enterprises, with dairy coming on board in 2018. It allows mixed farms to enter their costs in one go. Individual farm data is kept confidential, but it is still possible to share anonymous, aggregated data.



By calculating costs of production and benchmarking together we have the keys to a healthy, resilient agricultural industry.

For livestock

Capturing data does not have to be difficult or complicated. Key information should be recorded about the stock and how much feed, medicine and bedding is used. From this performance can be evaluated. Information can be recorded by using:

  • Notebooks 
  • White and black boards in sheds/farm office
  • Calendar/diary
  • Invoices – purchase and sales 
  • Mobile phones/tablets
  • Flock/herd management tools
  • Electronic Identification (EID) 

Why benchmark?

By using benchmarking in a group situation, you can compare your business with your peers operating in similar circumstances. You can identify the business with the lowest costs and best margins and find out how they do it. Calculating costs of production and net margins can allow you to set targets and monitor your progress against these targets. Using a benchmarking tool like Farmbench, you can plan for a variety of scenarios, such as:

  • Rotation and budgets 
  • Changing cropping mix or level of crop inputs 
  • Adding or subtracting labour/ machinery/buildings/land
  • Planning for new crop diversification rules

For more information on using Farm Bench and how to use it for your business visit the FarmBench website.



You can also view a number of video case studies from farmers who are using FarmBench to understand their cost of production and make their businesses more resilient.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Helping the industry to be experts in stock selection

Steve Powdrill, National Livestock Selection Specialist, has been in the agricultural industry for more than 40 years. This blog looks at how AHDB Beef & Lamb are helping livestock producers to increase the number of animals meeting supplier specifications.

In 2015 45 per cent of lambs and 48 per cent of cattle failed to meet target specification for fat or carcase conformation. With processors focused on fulfilling customer requirements, animals that are not meeting specification are having a significant impact on producer profitability.

This is why AHDB Beef & Lamb are focusing heavily on helping livestock producers to meet processor specification by running events and promoting messages. As part of this, we run a number of ‘Live to Dead’ events across the country that aim to give those involved in agriculture an insight into how best to select and judge livestock that are ready for slaughter.



Each workshop is extremely hands-on and is run by us in conjunction with MLC Services Ltd. Attendees are given the opportunity to handle live animals to assess fat cover and conformation, but also see them post-slaughter so classifications can be compared and contrasted. All events are accompanied by a discussion around factors affecting killing out percentages and dressing specifications.
Earlier in the year we also recruited a team of selection specialists. Based across the country, the team are available to give selection talks and demonstrations to beef and lamb producer and stakeholder groups. You can view the specialist in your area by visiting the selection area of the AHDB Beef & Lamb website.
So far, the team has been involved with 13 selection sessions, and this includes delivering events to agricultural students, new staff members at AHDB and other similar organisations, as well as a number of livestock producers.

We also produce a range of publications to help producers meet target specification and deliver what consumers want.

By holding the events and promoting the specification message, we’re aiming to increase numbers of livestock meeting specification that will result in improved returns to producers and an industry focused on consumer requirements, which is a key objective in creating a profitable and resilient industry.


Visit our website to find a range of selection publications. You can also book onto our ‘Live to Dead’ events through our events page.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Are SQQ weight bands still fit for purpose?


Jo Tuck, Head of Data and Analysis, in our Market Intelligence Team, writes about our consultation on prime lamb price reporting and why we are looking for representatives from the sheep industry to share their views on whether the most frequently used price measure for prime lambs, the Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ),should be amended.

Following on from producer and industry feedback AHDB feels it is time to look into Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ) weight bands and see whether they should be amended to bring them in line with current market conditions. The way we produce lamb has changed from when the original weight bands were set and now is the right time for an industry-wide consultation. The SQQ is an average price for lambs marketed within predefined weight bands and has been used consistently over many years. It is also used as an indication of the ‘target range’ for marketing lambs.


In spring 2017, we talked to a number of auction markets and processors, who offered a range of opinions, with the majority of them suggesting that the SQQ weight bands should be changed. Following this, we have teamed up with experts from Hybu Cig Cymru Meat Promotion Wales and Quality Meat Scotland to get a wider breadth of opinions and industry expertise from across the UK.



It is now your chance to share your opinion as to whether you think the SQQ is still fit for purpose. By filling out our survey, you can share your views on the current system, as well as how you feel it could be changed. The short survey asks you to rank three auction market weight bands from; no change, removing the ‘light weight’ band or redefining all weight bands. Results of the survey will allow us to make a decision on the future of the weight bands that works for our levy payers.


You will be able to take part in the survey until 31 December 2017 and the feedback will then be analysed. Results will be available in the New Year and if changes are needed, the changes will be implemented in spring 2018.

For more information on the consultation and to complete the survey visit our website