The program, which has been expanded, has been created in a move to facilitate farmer-to-farmer support. The project is shaped by evidence from across Arla farms, which has demonstrated that on-farm profitability can be enhanced when farmers are better informed with data and able to adjust to changes in market demand.
Graham Wilkinson, senior director of member relations, Arla Foods UK, said that market volatility is inevitable in the dairy industry.
“But we’ve also seen that where our owners take a more holistic approach to their businesses they are better able to adjust. R500 equips farmers with the tools and peer support to enable this,” Wilkinson said.
The Arla R500 Resilience Project will see Arla farmers work together through knowledge sharing and benchmarking using the R500 scorecard, which is calculated out of a maximum 500 score. The evaluation provides the farmer with a holistic view of their business, highlighting strengths and challenges to highlight where efficiency and profitability can be improved.
Adaptable and sustainable
Wilkinson noted the industry is still adjusting to the removal of EU milk quotas, and this, on top of volatile global milk prices and Brexit uncertainty means farmers tend to sit in one of two camps.
He said farmers are either successful at capitalizing when times were good, or are successful at planning for and mitigating against risk.
“At Arla, we’ve found that farmers who are able to adapt more easily between these two approaches are more sustainable.
“Taking the time to assess strengths and weaknesses, working with other farmers to gain insight, ideas and new perspectives and measuring change and success is key to being fit to compete in an age of increasing European and global volatility.”
The company highlighted an Arla farmer owner from North Yorkshire, Barbara Bradley, who has improved her business in recent years.
“When I first joined a benchmarking group it was daunting and I was concerned about it being time intensive collecting additional farm data,” Bradley said.
“But it’s helped us improve in lots of ways, not least that our milk solids have improved by 20%. We’re also more comfortable when things swing in the industry, our resilience to the market and overall business performance has definitely improved.
“In then discussing these findings with fellow farmers I came away from meetings with ideas for changing things. Not big changes, but small incremental changes which have had a big overall result.”
The 316 participants in the project will now be split into regional groups as meetings begin in June.