I go to quite a few benchmarking meetings and frankly some of the discussions leave much to be desired, writes John Gadd. This is because plenty of targets are propounded, usually based on physical performance allied to “industry averages” favoured by the group leaders.
Sorry, but I feel this is misleading. It’s profit that matters, ahead of performance. At the end of the day it’s the business’ own targets that are paramount. Targets should be farm-specific and tied to the farm’s own capabilities and circumstances – no-one else’s.
Don`t listen too diligently to other people’s targets; they’re a useful sounding-board, but that’s all.
Dare I say it, but is the latest fad of benchmarking becoming over-hyped?
I ask because your targets will depend on what you/or your financial advisor/or he who lends you the money and your immediate customer for what you produce all demand of your business. Your targets will depend on the circumstances which directly affect you. Things like your standard of living, your pig housing status, your labour pool, your financial strengths or weaknesses, the requirements of your immediate customers, the cost of money, credit facilities, disease status and so on.
As far as possible targets ought to be fixed for each of these – some flexible to ride out a crisis; others fixed and immutable whatever happens. Taken together, they provide a firm hand on the tiller. It’s what targets are for.
Having established your own physical and fiscal targets, especially the farm output targets, a primary essential to keep pace with how things are going are farm records. I find it astonishing – downright silly, in fact – that some pig producers don`t keep records. Records allow you to readjust your targets if the initial decision on that particular aim/forecast turns out to be wrong. Every record should have a target attainment figure alongside it because by studying these individually two things emerge:
- The degree of under or over achievement is pinpointed. Yes – over achievement is important too; for example you may not have enough future housing space to accommodate a surge in productivity and be forced into overstocking, which is a world-wide pig producer`s failing which materially reduces performance. For many years I have published figures on its insidious effect.
- Underachieving a final target can be quickly traced to the sector of the business where the deficiency lies.
One of the reasons why the supermarkets have been so effective in what they do is because they’re very good at linking predetermined targets, based on margin, linked to their output. In their case on a daily basis, although monthly (weekly for large farms) will suffice for us. I’ve been to visit supermarkets as a journalist and have picked up several things that pig producers could well emulate.
Next time, I’ll describe a simple and easy-to-operate graph to track targets.
> John Gadd, who is celebrating 60 years’ involvement in pig production this year, has had more than 2,800 articles about pigs published and has written three best-selling pig textbooks. With hands-on experience that includes managing a grow-out herd at 1,800 ft in Banffshire, Scotland, and 20 years in the allied industries with Boots’ Farm Department, RHM Agriculture and Taymix, he set up his own international pig management consultantcy in the mid 1980s and has now visited more than 3,000 pig units in 33 countries as a pig management adviser. (Photo courtesy Bournemouth Daily Echo)