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Issue 42 – Winter 2016


Ashley Gilman, Group Business Manager

Fram Farmers is a transparent, not-for-profit, farmer-owned cooperative and one of its aims is to reduce risk and volatility for members, says Ashley Gilman, Group Business Manager. A key part of Fram Farmers’ role is to know our members and the challenges which your business faces, so we deliver the services and support you need. Therefore, we are acutely aware of the pressures from low output prices, rising input costs and price volatility. Sterling’s fall has been beneficial to grain/oilseed rape prices and Basic Farm Payments as the exchange rate used to calculate the 2016 BPS was 16.5% higher than for 2015. However, land values have eased back in some areas and banks are reviewing lending

Machinery is an area where Members can achieve significant savings.

more closely. While some are helpful, others are cautious. Increasingly, businesses must consider how potential issues which face others may affect them. In some sectors payment terms have been extended at short notice, for example, reflecting financial pressures throughout the supply chain.

Although not areas which Fram Farmers can control, we can help in other ways. Our Purchasing Team can reduce input costs, our Grain Marketing Team can help you make well-informed decisions and we provide relevant, timely information. Fram Farmers’ guarantee to pay suppliers also helps us to negotiate very favourable prices on your behalf.  Continued on page 5

NEW YEAR – NEW PRICE. Take advantage of our PRICE FREEZE on new machinery and order by January 2017.

Call your dealer or Claydon direct for more information Tel: +44 (0)1440 820 327


THE CHALLENGE OF PAYROLL Writes Ruth Pearson The transition from a low wage, high tax, high welfare society to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare society, is being driven by the government. Have you noticed that your back-office workload has steadily increased and you have found that running your business is being hampered by the, err sorry, ‘maize maze’ that is the payroll field. We are experiencing growth in our Payroll Bureau operations where we remove the onus and confusion experienced by business owners as they grapple with salaries, pensions and compliance with complicated financial regulations. There are five key areas relating to wages, allowances, national insurance contributions and pensions. The National Living Wage, NLW, was introduced this year for all working people over 25 and is set at £7.20 per hour. Its rate is dictated by workers’ ages and status for example, an apprentice. It is not to be confused with the National Minimum Wage, NMW, which is the minimum hourly rate to which most workers are legally entitled. NMW for under 25-years old was increased from October 1 this year and it is important to remember that further annual reviews of both NMW and NLW are now scheduled to begin from April 2017. My second point is that the Employment Allowance increased to £3,000 in April 2016 this year. Rules surrounding eligibility also changed and single director-only payrolls can no longer claim the allowance. The third focus is on Auto Enrolment, AE. The number of employers nearing their ‘staging dates’ is increasing and, because of this, we anticipate that more

business owners will be looking for assistance with AE compliance from both pension providers and ourselves. We work closely with our colleagues at Whiting & Partners Wealth Management, to help old and new clients meet the demands of these new pension regulations. Fourthly and really as a reminder: Employers do not pay NICs on earnings up to the Upper Earnings Limit for employees under 21years old and apprentices under 25. HMRC have introduced National Insurance category letters. ‘H’ is for standard apprentices and ‘G’ refers to Apprentice Mariners – both under 25. The letter ‘M’ denotes those under 21. Finally the Married Couple’s Allowance. The Government has in place a scheme whereby couples can make an online claim to transfer part of your unused personal allowance of up to £1,100 in certain circumstances. This enables your husband, wife or civil partner to reduce the family tax bill by £220 a year! More information is available on our website but you may prefer to talk it through with your adviser or payroll bureau. Ruth Pearson T: 01638 712267 E:

Greenwood House, Greenwood Court Skyliner Way, Bury St. Edmunds IP32 7GY Registered to carry on audit work and regulated for a range of investment business activities by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Founded almost 90-years ago, Whiting & Partners has eight offices across East Anglia with 14 Partners, three Associates and 120 staff. An independent firm, we offer traditional accountancy practice alongside many specialist and niche services. For more information call 01284 752313

CEO Comment 3

VALUE YOUR COOPERATIVES’ CONTRIBUTION Without farmer-owned cooperatives which operate solely to benefit their members’ businesses, you would pay much more for vital inputs, perhaps a double-digit percentage. That has become evident where Fram Farmers have expanded into new areas such as Cornwall, where our presence has made a big difference to what members pay for inputs. Our headline story highlights the value for money which Fram Farmers provides, but we must look beyond direct financial savings. Part of the value calculation when considering whether to join a cooperative should be to think about what you would pay for inputs if we were not in the market. To get the best value for money farm businesses must be part of a true cooperative, adopt their ethos and be committed, a sentiment reflected by Neil Blackburn of Kite Consulting on Page 13. MEETING MEMBERS A key objective which I and my team have is to ensure that we meet 50% of members face-to-face each year, and that requires huge commitment from my team, which I appreciate. The popular Pie & Pint meetings are essential to involve you in the strategic direction of your cooperative. Feedback has been very positive, particularly regarding the appointment of Laura Buckingham (Arable Inputs Manager) and Mark Vice (General Agricultural Inputs Manager). For example, many members have commented on how much Mark and his team have improved the pricing and delivery of fuel. The Livestock Team, a major constituent of Fram Farmers’ offering, have done a first-rate job and achieved double-digit turnover growth this year. Members who require feed, animal health products, consumables and other inputs appreciate the value of access to industry professionals who provide independent market information, and secure inputs at the best prices. Fundamental to us being able to do that is our area-based fee structure,

We took 28 Members and some partners to visit Aspall’s Cyder near Debenham, Suffolk in November.

which is liberating. It means we have no commercial incentive to encourage members to place an order at a specific time to meet monthly targets, unlike organisations which charge a levy on product sales. Instead, we wait until the time is right for you. This purity of purpose and freedom from commercial conflicts allows us to always act in your best interests. By ensuring that members buy and sell at the right time we make a huge contribution to the financial bottom line of their businesses. FARMING’S FUTURE While the outcome of the referendum is known, the exact form and impact of Brexit is very unclear. Whatever happens, I believe we will see a significant reduction in farm support and more focus on the environment, so farming businesses should plan how to operate without ‘subsidies’. Farmers must become even more business-like. Some might decide to leave the job to others with the inclination and ability to move with the times and invest in technology - the approach which Fram Farmers is taking, and why we have recruited highly-talented individuals during the past 12 months. This is vital to give you access to professionals who are at the top of their game, provide completely impartial advice and have the resources to help you run your business. Automation, combined with precision operations, will clearly play an increasing

Fram Farmers, Station Road, Framlingham, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP13 9EE Tel 01728 727700 Every precaution has been taken to ensure that the material published in Farmers First is accurate at the time of printing. For further details about any of the information featured in this edition please call Ashley Gilman at Fram Farmers on 01728 727700, or Charles Macdowell at Land Communication on 01473 353613.

role in farming’s future. We are already seeing the impact that drones, remote analysis, robotic milking and sensors in animals are having on how we farm. This will only increase with the advent of new technologies, including driverless machines, which are no longer science fiction. This technology will become necessary because, in many parts of the world, finding skilled labour at key times of the year is a challenge. And with increasing pressure on ag-chem products we will see, for example, automated weeding used in situations where once we would have sprayed. Case IH recently unveiled an autonomous concept vehicle which builds on the auto-steering and telematics already offered for remote management of farm machinery and employees. This will offer greater operational efficiencies for tasks such as tillage, planting, spraying and harvesting, so farmers will spend more time managing automated processes than doing manual tasks. Increasingly, money will be made from behind a computer rather than in the field, which is why Fram Farmers will be investing in providing near- and realtime data. If you are interested in this technology, we will be forming a Special Interest Group (SIG) to focus on this area. Let me know if you would like to take part. Richard Anscombe, Chief Executive, Fram Farmers

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USE PLANT PROTECTION PRODUCTS SAFELY. Always read the label and product information before use. For further information including warning phrases and symbols refer to labels. Dow AgroSciences Limited, CPC2, Capital Park, Fulbourn, Cambridge, CB21 5XE. Tel: +44 (0) 1462 457272. ®TM Trademark of the Dow Chemical Company (Dow) or an affiliated company of Dow. Technical Hotline: 0800 689 8899. E-mail: Broadway Star contains florasulam and pyroxsulam.

Trusted Support in Volatile Times 5 Continued from page 1

Because most of Fram Farmers’ income is derived from fixed area fees this keeps the team healthily independent from the market when establishing when is the right time to buy key commodities.

PROFESSIONAL APPROACH Fram Farmers’ professionals monitor information from numerous sources, digest and interpret it, then use it to help you make the right decisions. Whether you are buying or selling, it’s good to have us alongside your business! Exchange rates are a key influence on farm profitability and must be monitored closely. We have established relationships with currency brokers, who members can liaise with and some are looking at this service in more detail. When it comes to crop inputs our seed, fertiliser and agrochemicals specialists, who are BASIS and FACTS qualified, work solely on your behalf. We have excellent communication channels with manufacturers, distributors, consultants and independent agronomists which are invaluable in securing supplies, at the right price. A key member advantage, the option to delay payment for autumn-applied ag-chems until December, has been a valuable support in a challenging year. Brexit has caused the fertiliser market to revert to a more traditional buying pattern. In the week before the referendum prices were very favourable, and we

contacted all members to suggest they take some cover if possible. Many ordered urea near the 10-year price low, around £175/t. It has subsequently increased by c.£70/t, highlighting the value of timely, independent information. Of course, taking advantage of such opportunities at short notice is not always possible. Storage and finance must be considered, while lining up additional bank facilities can take time and isn’t necessarily cheap. Members who purchase fertiliser through our pools pay just 50% of the projected price in September, the balance in February. We can also offset the first payment with an advance against grain committed to our pools, which makes it easier to manage cash flow. Just tick the ‘advance payment’ box on your pool commitment form. It’s quick and easy, with no set-up fees. Interest is 2.85% over base, more competitive than most banks. Fram Farmers pools provide a very simple, safe method of marketing grain with consistently above-average returns but without the risks of ‘spot’ selling. The Harvest Oilseed Rape pool averaged £277.25/t ex-farm, highlighting ADM’s knowledge of UK and global markets. The September storage option allows OSR members to have their tonnage taken off-farm that month. Rather than being forced to sell early because they need the space for other uses, they can price it at any time until May the following year. Anyone can sell grain and get it right some of the time, but without completely independent trusted information from specialists how do you know when to sell? And is that the best use of your time? OTHER BENEFITS TOO Members are increasingly turning to Fram Farmers to secure feed and livestock supplies because of the significant benefits. This has been reflected by the increasing volume of business transacted over the last two years, and an increase in new livestock members joining. Machinery is another area where we deliver savings which can run to thousands of pounds through our fleet partnerships with manufacturers such as Amazone, CaseIH, Claydon and

Spearhead, together with Ford, Land Rover, Nissan and Toyota. Simplified administration and payments is another key advantage, including the ability to operate multiple, linked accounts which reduces the time, cost and hassle of running contract farming operations. FramTrade, our wholly-owned nonmember company which supplies primarily energy and power, is an invaluable part of what we do. Its experience and industry connections to understand these complex, fastmoving markets adds significant strength to Fram Farmers’ Purchasing Team. One of our goals is to add value through technology and some 25% of orders are now placed via the website during the peak season, 40% outside office hours. However, we will never simply process electronic orders but always place your order at the right time, with the right supplier so you get maximum value for money.


January 18th & 19th, 2017 Fram Farmers Stand 780

PIE & PINTS January

11th, 7:00pm – @ The Queens Head, Rede Road, Hawkedon, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP29 4NN

24th, 7:00pm – @White Horse, Stoke Ash, Ipswich Road, 1P23 7ET 26th, 7:00pm – @The Crown, High Street, Ufford, IP13 6EL February

7th, 7:00pm – @ The George, 5-7 High Street, Spaldwick, PE28 0TD 9th, 7:00pm – @The Crown, High Street, Framlingham IP13 9AN March

1st, 7:00pm – @ The Buck Inn, The Street, Flixton, Bungay, NR35 1NZ To attend please email

6 Member Profile - Tim Pratt, Wantisden Hall Farms, Suffolk


Wantisden Hall Farms’ location on the Suffolk coast means that it is relatively frost free, while the light soils are ideal for growing vegetable crops. Maize had previously been grown in this field, which was being cultivated at the start of November ready for outdoor pigs.

The 2016 Farmers Weekly’s Farm Manager of The Year Award went to Tim Pratt, who for the last 10 years has been at the helm of Wantisden Hall Farms. Situated on the Suffolk coast, six miles east of Woodbridge, the business is owned by the Kemball family, who have farmed there since 1946 and been members of Fram Farmers for many years. When Tim Pratt went up on stage to collect his trophy at the 2016 Farmers Weekly Awards, which attracted over 1,000 farmers and industry VIPs to London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on 6 October, he could scarcely believe that his name had just been announced. Several weeks later when we visited him at Wantisden Halls Farms, the realisation that he had won this prestigious accolade was still sinking in. He had been named as one of three finalists in June, and hosted a panel of judges just before harvest, including David Watson, Senior Agri-Business Consultant for Bidwells, and last year’s winner Tim Hassell, General Manager of Goodwood Home Farm in Sussex. Nominated for the award by Edward Blanchard, Managing Director of potato marketing business Three Musketeers Ltd, Tim manages 1,351ha in total, 785ha of which are owned, and include

100ha of SSSI woodland with the largest area of ancient pollarded oak trees in Europe. His management style is to make the most of the natural resources which are available in this quiet corner of the Suffolk countryside, and expand production in a highlycommercial, yet sustainable way to minimise the environmental impact of the farm’s operations. The benefits of this approach are reflected in the fact that, since Tim took over the reins, the business has more than doubled in size, farming more land through contract arrangements, including 500ha at nearby Glemham Hall, home of the Cobbold family, in 2010. JUDGING TIME FLEW BY “There was just so much to talk about with the Farmers Weekly Award judges in terms of how the farm has developed over the last decade, how it is managed now and the economics of running such an intensive operation that the time they spent here just flew by,” explains Tim. Born into a family of dairy farmers in Worcestershire, he gained a degree at Harper Adams University before joining P R C & C M Westrope Farming Ltd, a large farming business at Loudham in Suffolk, where he spent five years and was introduced to Fram Farmers.

A LEAF demonstration farm, Wantisden Hall Farms is situated on mainly sandy loam soils which are ideal for field scale vegetable production and allow crops to be planted or harvested almost every week of the year, starting in January with drilling carrots before moving on to parsnips in February and potatoes from March onwards. But it wasn’t always that way. When Bill Kemball’s father, Jack, bought the farm in 1946, few people wanted this type of land, which was mostly covered in gorse and infested with rabbits. Yet he had the foresight to clear the vegetation, remove the rabbits and install irrigation to enable the production of high-value crops such as carrots, many of which found their way to London. To move produce to markets around the country Bill started a transport and storage business in 1976, and now Debach Warehousing and Distribution, a major company which is one of the most forward-looking in the sector, is managed by Bill and Jane’s daughter Bee Kemball. In 2000, the family purchased the former RAF Bentwaters airbase in nearby Rendlesham and have transformed it into a business park, with offices, warehousing and storage facilities for numerous businesses. The operation is managed by the couple’s son and daughter, John and Sarah, while their other daughter, Kate Baker, runs the Wantisden Valley wedding and events centre.

Tim Pratt focuses on early, high-value, high-quality vegetable crops.

Your Nationwide Training Specialist

Member Profile - Tim Pratt, Wantisden Hall Farms, Suffolk 7


60ha of land is rented for outdoor pig production as this generates a known financial return, cleans up the land and introduces much-needed fertility.

IRRIGATION IS ESSENTIAL Situated close to the North Sea, Wantisden Hall Farms enjoys an ideal micro-climate, being relatively warm and frost-free, although low rainfall means that this intensive farming operation relies heavily on its 10km network of underground irrigation mains to boost yields and quality, the water to supply it being drawn from 20ha of lakes which have been created over the last 25 years. With the blow-away sand being marginal for cereal production, the focus is on early-harvested, high-value crops such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips, the nature of the land allowing double cropping. For example, in 2016 some potatoes that were harvested in June after just eight weeks in the ground were followed by maize, which was irrigated and harvested in October. On the light land the rotation is potatoes, pigs, sugar beet, onions, carrots and winter cereals. Cropping depends on market demand, but currently includes 200ha of potatoes as this is the most profitable crop, the aim being to produce Maris Peer tubers which are less than 42mm in diameter to meet the supermarkets’ requirements. There are also 40ha of carrots, 20ha of vining peas, 20ha of onions, 15ha of parsnips and 10ha of swedes, together with 80ha of sugar beet and 180ha of maize which goes to Agri-Gen Ltd, a power generating business on the Bentwaters Industrial Park in which Wantisden Hall Farms has a 25% share. The remaining land produces wheat, barley and rye, while 60ha are let for outdoor pig production, and other grassland supports a flock of Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset sheep, together with 25 Shorthorn cows and followers. “I am very fortunate that Bill and Jane have been very accommodating in terms of how I manage the business,”

Kate Pender

Tim states. “One of the first changes was to bring outdoor pigs back into the system as they produce a regular, known income from renting the land to a specialist producer, add fertility to our light sandy loam soil which improves the sustainability of intensive vegetable production, as well as removing potato volunteers and potato cyst nematodes. I also reintroduced sheep and cattle to utilise previously unfarmed marginal land, and brought back in-hand various operations, such as spraying, which were previously contracted out, so that we develop and retain expertise within the business. I was delighted when Jonathan Cross, a member of the team here at Wantisden, won the 2016 Farm Sprayer Operator Of The Year award at the Cereals Show in June. “My objective is to grow what we can market, and a key part of that is paying attention to detail as it makes all the difference in terms of producing top-quality produce. For example, we make sure that seed rates and plant populations are exactly right so that the vegetables which we produce are of the size and quality required to command the best prices. We also employ specialist agronomists to help get the best from each crop and work closely with agricultural management consultants to optimise our machinery costs, while all our potatoes are professionally marketed through Three Musketeers Ltd and vegetables by Suffolk Produce Ltd. “Fram Farmers is a very valued partner in our operation as it enables us to achieve the best prices for all key input purchases, and for the oilseed rape and cereals which we market on both a spot basis and through the pools. Being part of a strong cooperative also significantly reduces the amount of administration in our own office, which saves additional time and money.”

“I like the ethos of Fram Farmers, in that it genuinely does set out to do the very best for its members,” states Kate Pender, who joined us recently and now works alongside Electricity Buyer, Julia Bryson. Having gained a degree in English, Kate worked for a printing company in Southwold on the East coast and four years ago moved north from Essex to Suffolk, where she now lives. “The job is very varied and I enjoy dealing with the members. Most calls are relatively straightforward, but others can be very complex and require a great deal of detective work, so it’s good that I am able to stay calm and focused,” says Kate. “Typically, three weeks of the month are busy, especially after npower send out monthly statements, which generate loads of queries, many of which require a fair bit of work to sort out.” When not working, Kate enjoys anything that involves the great outdoors, from walking her eight gundogs and keeping guinea pigs, to running and mountain biking, as well as cooking and shopping.

Cattle have been re-introduced to Wantisden Hall Farms to help increase soil fertility.

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Supplier Update – Tyres 9


The only way to set tyre pressures accurately is to measure axle.

How do you maximise the benefits of the latest high flexion tyres? Kirk Walker, Technical Manager, Mitas Tyres UK, explains… Getting maximum benefit from the new High Flexion (HF) tyres requires a different mindset than for conventional tyres. Get it right and you’ll enjoy reduced ground pressure, better traction and can run high road speeds at lower pressures, but you need to understand how they work. Like any tyre, set up is key and although increased fuel consumption, rapid tyre wear and reduced in-field performance result from poor tyre management, it’s an area few producers understand properly and very few adjust pressures between road and field. The fundamental difference is that the sidewalls of High Flexion can deform much more than conventional tyres without damaging the carcase. That means you can reduce operating pressures significantly and achieve a much larger footprint in the field to minimise compaction and maximise traction, then use this same set up for road work. One customer who operates a 275HP New Holland T8030 and switched to Mitas VF600 70 R30s on the front, with VF710 70 R42s on the back, said the biggest difference was reduced slip when ploughing because the new tyres

produce so much more grip. Previously they had to put more air in the tyres to do serious roadwork, but fitting the new VF tyres eliminated that, even when pulling a 16-tonne trailer. Nearly 90% of tyre warranty claims are pressure related. It’s the single biggest cause of damage, with both too low and too high a pressure causing irreversible deterioration of tyres. With a large cultivation tyre costing up to £5,000 producers can greatly reduce their operating costs and increasing efficiency simply by understanding more about tyre management. To set tyre pressures accurately, regardless of whether VF or conventional tyres are being used, individual axle weights are key. Set up the tractor with the heaviest piece of kit and any front weights you will be using. Ideally 60% of the weight should be over the rear axle and 40% over the front. Using a weigh-cell you can establish the weight carried by both axles, adjust where necessary and then work back to determine the lowest safe working pressure for the tyre based on the required road speed. For the customer mentioned earlier, this was 12 psi for the front tyres, 18 psi in the back to allow the new Mitas VFs to run at 65km/h, compared with 20 psi and 30 psi respectively for the previous conventional tyres. These considerably lower pressures increase the footprint of the VF tyres by 25% compared with a conventional tyre,

so they look very different in operation. Much of the deflection takes place length-wise, so with a VF tyre you should aim to get three lugs on the ground with only minimal sidewall deflection. The greater the bulge on the side of the tyre, the harder it is to run in the furrow and the more vulnerable the tyre is to stone damage. As well as treading more gently, improving traction and reducing fuel consumption, a well set up VF system is considerably more practical. If you are using conventional tyres correctly, you need to increase pressures each time you come out of the field, which can take 35 – 40 minutes. But with VFs you can go ploughing in the morning and then haul a grain trailer in the afternoon without having to adjust anything. In addition to all the other benefits, the saving in downtime from using Mitas VF tyres is considerable, making them the perfect choice for farmers and contractors. Mitas UK offer a set up and balancing service with all complete sets of tractor tyres fitted. For more information call 01553 817740.


AT LAST, EUROPE HAS FOUND SOMETHING TO AGREE ON It has taken two months of testing by 25 expert judges from 23 countries. Out of seven finalists from leading manufacturers, they have chosen the Optum CVX as the Tractor of the Year 2017. They are not alone. Optum CVX‘s high power-to-weight ratio and advanced technologies have already won it Machine of the Year, and four different innovation awards, in 2016. Test it out for yourself at your Case IH dealer, and see if you agree too.


Low on-road diesel prices, based on wholesale rates Your VAT back, without needing receipts Charges on your monthly Fram Farmers statement Accepted at over 1,000 Shell service stations Apply for yours today. Call Mark Vice on 01728 727714 or email

Member Profile – Simon Ward, Trevorder, St Breock, Cornwall 11

CORNWALL FARMER ENJOYS SIGNIFICANT BENEFITS FROM FRAM FARMERS MEMBERSHIP giving us more control over breeding, hence the need for the two new buildings which we have constructed this year.”

Simon Ward is pictured with Becky Bower, Business Development Manager (South) for Fram Farmers, next to one of the two new heifer buildings which were constructed at Trevorder during 2016, one being completed in March, the other at the end of October.

Simon Ward, from Trevorder, St Breock in Cornwall, was the first farmer from the Trewithen Dairy Group to join Fram Farmers in December 2014. Since then he has become a very active member and benefited significantly from being part of our buying group, along with many other farmers in the South West. No stranger to the advantages of collective purchasing, Simon previously contract farmed in Dorset and was part of another buying group, before moving to Trevorder, a 110-ha tenanted dairy farm near Wadebridge, in 2010. The 260 dairy cows, consisting of Holstein, Holstein-Friesians and an increasing number of Norwegian Reds, average 9,000 litres per year. Normally milked twice daily, they enter the parlour three times a day from July to the end of October, the period when demand from the Trewithen Dairy is at its highest and coincides with the peak of calving. In addition to grazing for the dairy herd the farm also produces 35 ha of maize, plus 30 ha of wheat which is used for whole crop silage and crimping. “When we moved to Cornwall we were very aware of the potential economic advantages of collective purchasing, and recognised that no individual farming business can achieve anything like the prices which Fram Farmers can negotiate,” states Simon, who also farms another 32 ha in Cornwall, just three miles from Trevorder, and a further 120 ha in Dorset. OWN BUYING GROUP He adds: “The members of the Trewithen Dairy Producers Group, to which I belong, initially considered forming our own buying group, but after hearing what Fram Farmers could offer, it was apparent that we could enjoy all the

advantages without the time, cost and complication of running our own operation. I now purchase all of the major inputs for my business through Fram Farmers, including feed, ag-chems, cereal and maize seeds, semen, calf milk replacer, dairy chemicals, building materials and electricity, with significant cost and time savings.” “Separating input purchases from advice, by using an independent nutritionist and agronomist, is a much more attractive option than being tied in to feed companies and agrochemical suppliers, because it allows us to buy what is best for the farm situation and at better prices, with no downside in terms of productivity.” Currently, Simon purchases around 300 tonnes of compound feeds and 200 tonnes of blends each year through the Fram Farmers’ Compound Feed Group. However, the largest purchases in recent months have been two new buildings to house the farm’s 150 heifers. “Until 2016, we reared all the young stock on our Dorset farm,” Simon explains. “Utilising the land there for arable production and moving the heifer rearing operation to Cornwall has significantly reduced our transport costs as well as

LARGE CAPITAL EXPENDITURE Both buildings were purchased through Fram Farmers, one measuring 45m x 12m, the other 32m x 14m, with heifers being moved from the smaller one to the larger of the two at 10 to 12 months of age. As they would represent such a large item of capital expenditure, Simon researched the market thoroughly and knew exactly what he wanted before making the investment, but was still surprised at how much cheaper he could purchase the same products through Fram Farmers. In addition to the significant price advantage, Simon was also able to organise the purchase of all the readymix concrete required for the project through the Fram Farmers’ office, where Building Materials Buyer, Tyrone Campbell-Twells’ specialist knowledge came in particularly useful. Simon is also a keen participant in Fram Farmers’ maize trials. In conjunction with Bright Seeds Ltd, Fram Farmers have been working to introduce new varieties of maize into Cornwall that can cope with the more marginal growing conditions found in the area, but are less expensive than the more common varieties. Summarising the benefits of membership, Simon adds: “Being part of Fram Farmers provides such a wide range of advantages, with no downside. It is very reassuring to have specialists in every area of input purchasing, constantly in touch with the various markets, and working on your behalf. I am quite happy to leave them to do what they do best, saving me several hours every week to focus my time and attention on managing my business, which I regard as a much better use of resources.”

Simon Ward (L) with David Bright of Bright Seeds in a trial plot of maize

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Business Management 13


R.T & M Roberts, who farm on Anglesey are relatively new Members of Fram Farmers but already seeing big benefits.

With 25 years’ experience in the dairy industry, Neil Blackburn of Kite Consulting, is well placed to identify ways to improve herd performance. He explains why membership of a strong buying group is increasingly important. “Dairy farmers who do not belong to a strong buying group will generally pay over the odds for inputs. For example, most pay at least 10% too much for compound feeds and 20% in extreme cases, which makes a huge difference to production costs. Feed accounts for 20 - 30% of milk production costs, so ‘buying it right’ is fundamental. It’s an area that I focus on, not necessarily so clients can purchase like-for-like products on improved terms, but by investigating the alternatives, it’s often possible to achieve the same or better nutritional performance at lower cost. Typically, I can save 2 - 3ppl from this aspect alone, but importantly it is part of an overall business review. Time is in short supply for farmers, and shopping around to find the

right products at the keenest prices is something most find challenging. Also, as individuals, they don’t have the specialist industry knowledge, information or volume to obtain the best terms. BEING OPEN TO CHANGE Faced with low milk prices, producers should constantly challenge current practises and be open to change. Keeping up with constant practical and legislative changes is very difficult for any ‘hands-on’ producer, so it is increasingly beneficial to work with an outside specialist. Most UK dairy farmers need 25 30ppl to be sustainable, and those who can produce for less will have a good future. The key is to optimise production and buy inputs at the right price, which increasingly means separating advice from purchases by using an independent consultant/ nutritionist, and belonging to a strong buying group. This offers measurable benefits compared with a package-deal of products and advice.

DON’T GO FOR THE CHEAPEST When choosing a buying group, don’t just go for ‘the cheapest’ or one that is very specialised. It is vital to consider the organisation’s ethos and pedigree, as well as the range of benefits it offers. Fram Farmers is a very good example of a cooperative doing things right. It is long-established, financially strong, operates entirely in the members’ best interests, has enormous buying power which generates significant cost savings, and provides specialist market knowledge - which is invaluable in timing purchases and securing supplies. Membership also saves time, reduces administration and provides a comprehensive industry overview. If you join a buying group, then use it consistently and respect the confidentiality of the advice and information given. Trust is fundamental to the long-term effectiveness of such an organisation and you must not use confidential information simply to negotiate a better deal with an existing supplier. That will undermine the position of the buying group and seriously compromise their confidence in you, so treat your membership with respect.” Neil Blackburn can be contacted on 07980 917555, or email

Neil Blackburn is a founding Partner in Kite Consulting and provides advice to dairy producers with herds from 150 to 2000 cows. Neil’s areas of expertise include business management and strategic planning, dairy nutrition and technical consultancy, while he also manages the delivery of larger-scale projects within Kite Consulting.

14 Staff Profiles


otherwise miss out, to visit one of 500 farms throughout the UK. Before becoming involved with Country Trust, Stewart owned a motorcycle business in Saxmundham, Suffolk which specialised in tuning high-performance engines for Italian motorcycles, during which time he successfully raced a Moto-Guzzi. That change in career path had followed 13 years with leading global investment banking, securities and

investment management firm Goldman Sachs, where Stewart was a financial instrument trader, a role which requires a high level of numeracy and the ability to think on your feet. A supporter of the cooperative ethos, Stewart now works alongside Building Materials Buyer Tyrone Campbell-Twells, and is enjoying a role in which his original training as a quantity surveyor comes in very useful. He also assists Machinery Buyer Jemma Neesham, and Machinery Purchasing Assistant Tom Mountain, when their department is busy. “Every 10 years or so I enjoy taking on a new career challenge, and jobs have always found me rather than me looking for them,” says Stewart, who has lived in Suffolk for 25 years, is married with two children and has two dogs. In his spare time, Stewart enjoys a range of hobbies, one of which is ‘green woodworking’, as part of which he uses traditional hand tools to craft chairs without the use of glue. Stewart is currently studying for a degree in Physics with the Open University.

Suffolk. Prior to that he trained as a service engineer for a company which supplies photocopiers, so guess who everyone in the office calls when there’s a problem! Working alongside Mark Vice, General Arable Inputs Manager, James much prefers his new role in a new industry, together with the responsibility which it brings in ensuring that members all over the country receive the fuel they have ordered, on time and at the right location. “I was amazed at the amount of money which we are able to save farmers compared with what they would pay if purchasing direct,” states James, who has arranged 15 million litres of fuel transactions during his time with us. “Monday is generally the busiest day of the week, because everyone calls in

to order fuel they have discovered that they need over the weekend. Thursdays also tend to be busy, with members placing orders for delivery the following Monday. On those days, we regularly deal with at least 75 orders, but on other days of the week it is 45 to 50. At times, it can be a bit of a juggling act to keep everyone happy, but that makes the job very varied and the time flies by.” Enjoying the process of getting to know members and their specific requirements, James is looking to help further develop the fuel side of Fram Farmers, including Fuel Cards, although he also provides support for our Telecoms and IT departments, an area he has been interested in since childhood.

James Gentry Stewart Goldie-Morrison enjoyed a very interesting and varied career before joining Fram Farmers as Purchasing Administrator in October.

For the previous two years, he travelled the world, a dramatic change of lifestyle following 10 years as CEO of Framlinghambased charity ‘Country Trust’, a national organisation which brings alive food, farming and the working countryside for disadvantaged children, who are least able to access it. Each year the charity enables 25,000 children who would


James Gentry

“No two days here are ever the same,” says James Gentry, who joined Fram Farmers as Fuel Administrator in May after four years dealing with home and travel policies for leading insurance company AXA at the company’s offices in Ipswich,

OPENING TIMES: MON - FRI 7.30am - 5.15pm SATURDAY 8am - 4pm




Suppliers and Manufacturers of Agricultural and Building Materials

Member Profile – Edd Houghton, Birch Farm, Warburton, Lancashire 15


In the 12 years that Edd Houghton has been a member of Fram Farmers, he has come to rely on the wide range of benefits which our cooperative provides to save money, and help his family’s farming and agricultural contracting business, E & L Houghton, run smoothly. “When you’re working flat-out is the time that Fram Farmers is most invaluable. The ease of being able to order what we need without having to spend ages calling multiple suppliers to get the best price, then taking more time to process countless invoices, sort out what we have spent and pay suppliers individually, saves no end of time and frustration,” Edd Houghton states. A member for 12 years, he now farms a total of 400 acres in partnership with his wife Lucy, as well as operating a long-established agricultural contracting business. The couple moved to 90-acre Birch Farm, Warburton, which they own, three years ago and now farm another 250 acres on tenancy and the rest on share farming agreements. Situated on black sand and medium loam soils which lie just 20 metres above sea level, the Houghtons’ farm is within sight of the Cerestar wheat processing plant six miles away at Trafford Park in Manchester. They grow three principal crops. This year there will be equal amounts of malting barley, divided between the winter variety SY Venture and springsown LG Propino, together with winter wheat, all KWS Lily, and spring beans. They also have 40 acres of grass to support a herd of 20 Aberdeen Angus suckler cattle, which is being expanded

ready for when their 19-year-old daughter Bethany, returns to the farm after an extended diploma course at Reaseheath College in Cheshire, before studying agriculture with business management at University. The couple also operate a contract spraying business, with three Bateman self-propelled machines which complete 40,000 acres annually, more than half of the total area being in potato crops grown by major producers in the area. BASIS-qualified, Edd has been doing all his own agronomy for the last nine years and says that knowledge is vital so he can specify products for his own farm as well as knowing everything about what is being applied during contract spraying operations.

TIGHT CONTROL NEEDED “Belonging to Fram Farmers’ office certainly makes our working life much easier,” says Edd. “We never inherited anything and had to start the business from scratch, so it is vital that we keep a tight control over what we spend and get the best value for money. The problem is that between March and the end of October we are flat-out with work, both on our own farm and others, so the time available for administration is very limited. “Membership of Fram Farmers is invaluable and pays for itself hands down. We purchase most of the inputs for our business through the cooperative, including all ag-chems, fertilisers, electricity, fuel and building supplies, as well as numerous other items. Recently, we constructed two new buildings, including a 1,000-tonne grain store, and ordered many of the materials through Fram Farmers to save time and money. “We have also benefited, or will do, from the significant Fram Farmers’ manufacturer’s rebate on three new tractors which have been purchased through our local Case IH dealer, Metcalf’s Agricultural Engineers in Lancashire. We bought a Maxxum 120 in 2012, a Maxxum 125 in 2016 and have just ordered a new Maxxum 130 CVX which will be delivered in December. “We like Case IH products, because they tick all the boxes in terms of being reasonably priced, reliable and with a good power-toweight ratio. We also like the fact that they are not a common sight in this area and represent something different, which gets us noticed. “When I order through Fram Farmers it is comforting to know that while I am getting on with running our business, things are happening behind the scenes in the Fram Farmers office, and the team there is working on my behalf. That is an enormous help for any small business and well worth the cost of membership.”

In addition to their arable business, the Houghtons have 40 acres of grass to support a herd of 20 Aberdeen Angus suckler cattle.

Farmers First Issue 42 - Winter 2016  

The latest from the UK's leading agricultural cooperative

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