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Best Practices to Improve Your Farm Management Skills

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​Best Practices to Improve Your Farm Management Skills

Agriculture is a fast-paced industry, with Brexit looming and volatile commodity prices, now is the ideal time to improve your farm management skills. Traditionally, farm managers would choose this career path because they had a farm to inherit or they had a passion for the sector, but today the focus needs to start shifting to those interested in the financial, marketing and staffing sides of the business. We take a look at a range of best practices which will help improve your farm management skills.

1. High levels of professional knowledge

A successful farm manager should understand their industry inside out, with a strong grasp of everything from production technology and marketing techniques to engineering knowledge and an understanding of management principles. This knowledge will enable a successful manager to create goals and plans for both the short and long term.

Although farm management often begins in the classroom, the success comes further down the line as the manager develops an intimate knowledge of the business operations. An in depth understanding of production technology, schedules, field operations, machinery and maintenance will give a manager the insight required to improve efficiency of work flows.

The role of a farm manager involves making important decisions on a regular basis. A strong understanding will improve a manager’s level of judgement and provide the ability to cope with uncertain market conditions.

2. Understanding of the financial aspects of the farm

Financial management is an important contributor to the success of a farming business. A successful farm manager will manage the margin between their costs and revenue at least a few months ahead. Considering the price of essential inputs such as fertiliser and diesel alongside possible sale prices, will help a manager plan profitable routes to market.

Setting a goal to work towards rather than responding to demand is ideal, but in farming it is near impossible to plan everything in advance. A great manager will respond to market needs as they happen, while considering costs and the longer-term goals of the farm.

3. Analyse your farm's performance

A problem on the farm will gradually eat away at the profits and will often go unnoticed for large periods of time, when a farm is poorly managed. Regularly monitoring performance of the farm will help a manager spot any potential problems as they begin, so new opportunities can be found before profits take a hit.

At the start of the year it is important to put together a cash flow budget, this will help produce an estimate of projected earnings over the course of the year. Every month you should check the projections against your actual cash flow, to see if your business is on track. A skilled farm manager will tune into the events around them, which will help develop strong judgment making skills.

4. Evaluate annual performance

At the end of the year take the time to look back over key decisions and consider what went well and what things were poorly judged. This will help a farm plan for the future and avoid repetition of the same mistakes again. Sharing this information with employees will improve communications and ensure they have the necessary knowledge to carry on working effectively if the farm manager is away.

It can be beneficial to benchmark farm performance against farms which perform in the top 25 percent. The Farm Business Survey will help compare a specific business to other farms which contributed to the Farm Business Survey. It will also help a manager make projections for business performance for the following year.

Once a farm's performance is analysed it becomes possible to develop strategic positioning techniques, which may help the business uncover potential opportunities. By understanding performance, a successful manager will be able to identify the strengths of the business to take advantage of potential gaps in the market.

5. Improve relationships with colleagues and those involved with the business

One of the key features of a successful farm manager is strong interpersonal skills. These abilities will help a manager to effectively communicate, delegate, resolve conflicts, negotiate, sell and persuade. These skills are relevant to all sizes of farms, whether the team consists of other family members, regular contractors or casual labourers.

On many farms, the manager is also a practical member of the workforce and there can be a tendency by other colleagues to view any managerial office work as wasted time, as it is not contributing to immediate practical demands. Improving relationships and openness with other workers will help make all tasks a team effort and improve collaboration.

A key part of improving relationships is developing emotional resilience. A farm manager's role will always involve some degree of emotional stress, so the ability to cope with demanding situations will always be important. Developing skills of introspection will help a farm manager to improve awareness of their self-attributes.

6. Form strategic alliances

It is well known that joint efforts can improve the success of a farming operation, by providing improved technical expertise and increased economies of scale. If this is not a viable option for a farm, a peer advisory group can offer beneficial support.

Discussing farming practices and issues in the industry with other farm managers will improve knowledge and help a manager identify any weak areas of business performance. The peer group could consist of indirect competitors, but ideally trust will grow to a point where it is possible to discuss openly the issues a business is facing. By identifying weak areas of a business against other like for like farms, it will become easier to make the improvements needed to move forward.

If you are looking to progress your farm management career, here at Agricultural Recruitment Specialists we are specialists in agricultural, farming and rural recruitment and have a variety of executive and management positions available within agriculture, horticulture and the food and rural sectors throughout the UK and the rest of the world. To find out more about our agricultural job vacancies and discuss your future career, contact our team of agricultural recruitment professionals. You can visit our website here: or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: