Benchmarking: It pays to know your figures!

Senan White CAFRE (left) with Mark Lewis going over the discussion topics beforehand
Senan White CAFRE (left) with Mark Lewis going over the discussion topics beforehand

The Portadown Suckler Beef Business Development Group (BDG) and Armagh Beef Finisher BDG met together recently on the farm of Mark Lewis near Portadown.

Mark is a member of the Portadown Suckler BDG and is a participating farmer in the ‘Better Farm Beef Challenge NI’ programme.

Group members discussing benchmarking examples.  Farm staff member Adam Smyth in the foreground

Group members discussing benchmarking examples. Farm staff member Adam Smyth in the foreground

Mark is an advocate of ‘measuring to manage’ and the meeting was arranged as part of the BDG programme by CAFRE Development Adviser Senan White to allow the group members to view Mark’s system and facilities and to discuss the benefits of benchmarking which are helping Mark improve his business.

Senan helped facilitate discussion on the types of benchmarking that the group members already undertake. The farmers were able to discuss in detail their methods and results in small groups to encourage good interaction and participation.

Mark then took the farmers on an in depth tour of his new handling facilities and cattle shed. The handling facilities and focus on safety for both farmer and animals created a great impression and much debate.

After some warm refreshments, Mark gave a very informative overview of his farm and his involvement in the Better Farm Beef Challenge programme.

Mark Lewis speaking on his farm performance and development.

Mark Lewis speaking on his farm performance and development.

Mark has very clear goals for the farm going forward to increase stocking rate and improve Gross Margin/ha. He emphasised the value of growing and utilising more grass through paddock grazing and focused on the importance of measuring and monitoring performance, whether this be regular weighing of cattle, soil testing, silage testing or by using financial indicators.

The measuring instrument Mark has found most beneficial is financial benchmarking.

He encouraged the farmers to make full use of this free service available from CAFRE through the BDG’s. Mark stated that financial benchmarking has given him a clear overview of the input and output costs of his business.

He has identified areas for improvement and, with support from his CAFRE adviser, has set clear targets for the short and medium term.

Group members touring Mark's cattle shed

Group members touring Mark's cattle shed

As Mark concluded: “If it can’t be measured, then it can’t be managed.”

Group members enjoying some refreshments at the meeting

Group members enjoying some refreshments at the meeting