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Rural Business Research Unit

The Rural Business Research Unit at Askham Bryan College is part of Rural Business Research; a national consortium of six Universities and Colleges delivering projects for government, levy-funded research bodies, research councils and commercial clients. The research undertaken includes specific regional studies, national data collection and analysis and the largest survey of its kind in this country, the Farm Business Survey, carried out by Defra.

The Farm Business Survey (FBS) is the Unit's main area of research which involves visiting around 300 farms each year; providing unrivalled information on the physical and economic performance of farm businesses in the region. 

Other work undertaken includes undertaking independent research for clients such as the National Parks, Natural England and the Food Standards Agency. Furthermore, the Unit has expertise in the area of beef production with current work focusing on the development of a Benchmarking Discussion Group for Suckler Cow farmers with the aim of improving profitability and efficiency.

Project Staff:

Joe Bonner - Manager Rural Business Research Unit

Lynne Stretton – Senior Research Officer

Martin Riley – Research Officer

Oliver White – Research Officer

Anne Green – Research Officer 

Simon Walton – Research Officer

 

Project Title:

Farm Business Survey –  Yorkshire, Lancashire & Cheshire

Start date:

Ongoing

Project Lead Staff:

Joe Bonner – Head of Unit

Project Partners:

Rural Business
Research (RBR)

Other Project Staff:

Lynne Stretton – Senior Research Officer, Martin Riley – Research Officer, Oliver White – Research Officer, Lucy Peacock – Research Officer, Anne Green – Research Officer, Simon Walton – Research Officer, Caroline Wilson – Administrative Assistant, Sue Brown – Administrative Assistant

Project Aims & Overview:

The Farm Business Survey provides information on the physical and economic performance of farm businesses in England; to inform policy decisions on matters affecting farm businesses. It is intended to serve the needs of government, government partners, farming and land management interest groups, and researchers.

The Farm Business Survey is an annual survey commissioned by the government under which a range of management accounting information on all aspects of farmer's and grower's businesses is collected. The survey uses a sample of farms and horticultural units that is representative of the national population of farms in terms of farm type, farm size and regional location.

The Rural Business Research Unit, maintains and publishes FBS Farm Business Benchmarking. Rural Business Research - a consortium of six University Research Centres - carries out the Farm Business Survey in England.

In England the Farm Business Survey is conducted on behalf of, and financed by, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the data collected in it are Crown Copyright.

Project Partners include: University of Nottingham, University of Reading, University of
Newcastle, University of Reading, Duchy College.

 

Project Title:

Pig Production in England – 2014/15

Start date:

September 2015

Project Lead Staff:

Lucy Peacock – Research Officer

Project Partners:

RBR

Other Project Staff:

Research Officers within RBRU.

Project Aims & Overview:

This series of reports on the economics of agriculture and horticulture in England celebrates ten years of Rural Business Research (RBR) providing independent data and analysis to the individual sectors of the agricultural and horticultural industry. Drawing upon Farm Business Survey data from the 2014/15 financial year our reports are set against a modest decrease in overall Farm Business Income (FBI) of around 8% to an average £39,700 per farm. Of this overall measure of farm business profitability, the income derived from the Single Payment Scheme accounted for around 55%, highlighting the importance of support payments to the average farm business in England.  The 2014/15 data relates to the 2014 harvest / production year – since this time there have been some marked downturns in a number of output prices for farm businesses – it is therefore clear that the importance of policy support to businesses at the start of 2016 is even greater than the above data indicates.

 

Project Title:

Investigating the effect of the Neonicotinoid ban on Oil Seed
Rape Production.

Start date:

Dec 2015

Project Lead Staff:

Joe Bonner – Head of Unit

Project Partners:

Newcastle University

Other Project Staff:

All Research Officers within RBRU.

Project Aims & Overview:

Direct objectives/outputs:

1.   An estimation of oilseed crop area changes from 2014/15 to 2015/16 and the reasons for the change.
2.   An estimation of the use of early growth insecticides to combat CSFB infestations;
identifying different strategies for crops with and without neonicotinoid treated seed.
3.   An estimation of the effectiveness of the neonicotinoid seed dressing in reducing crop losses in known infestation hot spots.
4.   An estimation of the area of crop and yield lost due to CSFB damage.
5.   An estimation of the cost of replanting after crop failure following CSFB damage.
6.   A report (and research paper) to achieve press coverage and further enhance stakeholder awareness of RBR.


No publications as yet.

 

Project Title:

State Aid Calculations for National Parks – North York Moors
National Park,

Start date:

Nov 2015

Project Lead Staff:

Joe Bonner – Head of Unit

Project Partners:

North York Moors
National Park Authority

Other Project Staff:

Martin Riley – Research Officer

Anne Green – Research Officer
 
Project Aims & Overview:

This project looked at proposed payment rates across the National Parks for state aid calculations which are currently under review.

No publications as yet.

 

Project Title:

Beefing up Returns - Discussion Group

Start date:

2016

Project Lead Staff:

Oliver White

Project Partners:

ASDA / ABP

Other Project Staff:

Joe Bonner

Project Aims & Overview:

The aim of this project is to get farmers more focused into the costing and business performance of their farm. The proposed project will need the complete commitment from the farmers who are taking part in the project. The aim of the project is for the farmers taking part to improve the profitability and efficiency of their beef enterprises.

The project will work by an Askham Bryan researcher taking all financial information from each farm. This information will be taken from the farm and processed. Farmers will need to provide the following information:

• Bank statements
• Invoices
• Receipts
• Cattle numbers
• Valuations

From this information farmers will receive a set of management accounts and gross margins for individual enterprises. Farmers will all receive their own feedback and once this has all been agreed all farmers taking part in the project will then be able to see everyone’s results. The full set of results will then be analysed at a meeting for all the farmers taking part in the project. Farmers then can compare business performances.

Running alongside the financial information the farmers will be expected to attend three farm meetings throughout the year. These will be hosted on a rota at each farm taking part in the project. The farmers will take part in a farm walk of the whole farm. Farmers will then be encouraged to discuss aspects of the farm, and get ideas how to improve areas.

The project will be repeated every year for five years, during this time farmers will hopefully see improved profitability and efficiency. Each year the farms will have the previous year’s performance details and in this way farmers can monitor their progress.
 

 

Project Title:

Cattleman’s  Academy

Start date:

2014, 2015, 2016

Project Lead Staff:

Oliver White

Project Partners:

ASDA / ABP

Other Project Staff:

Lindsey Wedgewood

Project Aims & Overview:

The 2016 Cattleman’s Academy is being launched for students who are studying the Advanced
Apprenticeship in Agriculture at Askham Bryan College and Newton Rigg College.

Applications are now being invited from students who would like to take part. This should be in the form of a CV and covering letter, detailing why they would like to participate and how they would benefit from the experience. Applicants will then be shortlisted for an interview with four students being selected to take part in the academy.

 

Agricultural Placements (two weeks)

This will involve students spending two, one-week work placements on farms producing cattle for ABP/ASDA. In the past we have used farms in Scotland and Wales. Farms will be selected to suit the student requirements/ interests and the timing of the work placement will be by mutual consent. Farms which have taken part in the programme before have been willing to share their knowledge of EBVS, breeding programmes, cattle finishing programmes, grassland management and ration design.

Farm 2 Fork (four days)

This is one week where students will spend their time following the ABP chain from looking at the farm and talking about cattle specification all the way though to product placements in ASDA premier store at Trafford Park, Manchester.

Day 1: Cattle selection (Shrewsbury)

Day 2: Abattoir and boning hall tour at ABP Shrewsbury

Day 3: Tour of processing plant and butchery and NPD demonstration at ABP Doncaster

Day 4: Tour of the distribution centre and looking at product placement and point of sale at ASDA Manchester

 

Student Commitment

Students participating will be required to:

  • Produce a video diary of their experiences
  • Attend at least one Asda/ ABP Producer group meeting
  • Take part in any related publicity activities organised by ABP/ASDA/Askham Bryan
  • Attend one day at the Yorkshire Show


Previous participants have found this to be a fantastic opportunity to get an insight into the beef industry through the UK’s largest processor, and have all taken away useful information from the farms they have stayed on.

For more information please contact  oliver.white@askham-bryan.ac.uk
 

 

Project Title:

Fantasy Farming –  Do Black and White Cattle Make Money?

Start date:

2008

Project Lead Staff:

Oliver White

Project Partners:

ASDA / ABP / ARLA / Lantra

Other Project Staff:

Mervyn Lewis

Project Aims & Overview:

Asda’s Fantasy Farming Beef League has similar rules to that of fantasy football, but instead of managing players, the ten teams of farmers are looking after a pen of dairy bull calves, competing to produce the best product and make the most profit. The teams of three, each comprising two Yorkshire BeefLink farmers and one Yorkshire DairyLink farmer selected by Arla, Asda’s sole supplier of milk, have been given eight calves to manage from twelve weeks old to finishing. The calves will be kept at Askham Bryan College’s National Beef Training Unit in York.

Update meetings are held monthly during which various guest speakers will advise on topics such as nutrition, health and supply chain. After attending the meetings, the teams can use the information gathered from the guest speakers to alter any aspect of the cattle’s management, including feed formulation, vet treatments and selection of the market ready animals.

The project will work hard to find ways of helping our dairy and beef farmers improve the economics of their farm, at the same time as improving the welfare of their stock. The results of this competition will aid best practice in farms, delivering significant advantages to farmers.

The project will aim to help meet the considerable challenges facing the beef industry today in terms of both welfare and economics. To do this, it is essential that farmers are given the skills and training development required to improve their business productivity and performance.

 

Project Title:

Do Dual Purpose Bulls Leave Higher Margins

Start date:

2010

Project Lead Staff:

Oliver White

Project Partners:

ASDA / ABP / Lantra

Other Project Staff:

Mervyn Lewis, Michael Patch

Project Aims & Overview:

With the support of ABP, ASDA and Lantra Fantasy Farming Two launched in January with 25 out of the original 30 farmers taking part in the second phase. After the successful completion of FF1 and deciding that you can make money from black and whites it was decided to see if you used more of a dual purpose bull you could produce a higher profit.

We have had some very encouraging results to date, with the average DLGs being 1.59 which is better than where we were last year. Unfortunately we have not seen much difference in growth rates between the breeds, we did expect the dual purpose cattle to perform better than the traditional dairy breeds, however this has not been the case. It will be more interesting when we have the carcass results with the dual purpose cattle expecting a better grade and killing out %.

This year each animal had been given an individual purchase price. This was dependent upon weight and breed. The highest price paid was for the Montbeliards which were costed at £350 for a reared calf and the lowest price was for the British Friesians which were £120. These prices were worked out by getting a calf price and adding a £90 rearing cost. It is unlikely that there will be much profit as the calves were purchased at a time when prices were high and beef prices have since dropped by 20 pence / kg.

Nevertheless, the cattle are looking good and it will not be long until one or two of the groups start selling their cattle. Some might wait hoping that the price will increase before selling.

We have had a variety of meetings with great turnouts, on average about 25 per meeting. Meetings include:

● Alternative Feeds

● Cattle Handling

● Cattle Handling Design

● Farm Visits

● Mid Season Review

● Overview on the Montbeliard Breed

 

Project Title:

Wagyu Beef Finishing

Start date:

2012

Project Lead Staff:

Oliver White

Project Partners:

ASDA / ABP

Other Project Staff:

Mervyn Lewis, Michael Patch

Project Aims & Overview:

The project will be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom (possibly in Europe) using Wagyu crossed beef. Traditionally the cattle are massaged with beer and are very highly thought of in their native Japan. The cattle are usually fed extensively, however we are very keen to try and develop a more intensive way of finishing the cattle, possible using brewers grains or bi-products from the new bio-ethanol power stations that are developing in the region.

Working with 30 farmers, the project aim will be to develop a new product into the supermarkets. The farmers will be responsible for developing diets in five groups of six people containing two dairy farmers and four beef farmers per team. With advice during the 12 meetings from various people, teams will compete again in a competition. However on this project the teams will be judges on three aspects; cost of production, taste of product and reasons for choosing the diets, the latter two will be decided by a panel. The winning team will then be announced after the taste sessions to be held at the Yorkshire Show

Farmers will be given a specification to work with in order to produce the best product. Again we will be linking dairy farmers with beef farmers throughout Yorkshire. Farmers will be expected to attend the monthly meeting which will cover topics such as:

■ Eating quality

■ Nutritional aspects

■ New product design

■ Product Marketing

■ Brand development

 

Project Title:


Investigation into the long-term effects of river flooding on levels of organic environmental contaminants in food from livestock reared on flood prone pastures

Start date:

2008 – 2012

Project Lead Staff:

Oliver White

Project Partners:

UEA / FSA / FERA

Other Project Staff:

Mervyn Lewis

Project Aims & Overview:

This study investigated the effects of flooding on contaminant levels in meat and offal from grazing livestock and performed further monitoring of milk along one of the rivers investigated 10 years earlier.

Previous research showed that milk from flood-prone farms along the River Trent and the Doe/ Lea/Rother/Don river system generally contained higher levels of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) than milk from matched control farms. This was attributable to elevated levels of these contaminants in soil and herbage on flood-prone pastureland caused by sediment deposited during repeated flooding events. However, the effects of flooding on dioxin and PCB levels in meat or offal from grazing livestock were not investigated.

The European Union recognised that levels of dioxins and PCBs in food products originating from flood-prone regions could be affected as a consequence of flooding, and recommended monitoring the levels of these contaminants in foodstuffs from flood-prone regions. Increased river-flooding associated with climate change could result in contaminated sediment deposition onto pasture becoming a more significant source of contamination of the terrestrial food chain.

Three interlinked strands of work have been conducted to provide further knowledge about the long-term effects of river flooding on the levels of persistent organic environmental contaminants in milk, or in meat and offal. The experimental approach used for the two main strands of work was the same as that used in the previous research. The impact of flooding on contaminant levels in milk or in meat and offal was assessed by comparing contaminant levels in these food products (and in soil and grass samples) from matched pairs of flood-prone and non-flooding control dairy or beef farms.

The previous research demonstrated increased levels of dioxins and PCBs in milk from flood- prone farms near rivers containing contaminated sediment. The current study assessed the impact of flooding on dioxin, PCB and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) levels in meat and offal from beef cattle and sheep along the River Trent and the Aire/Ouse river system. These rivers have urban and industrial catchments.

In 2008, further monitoring was carried out for dioxins and PCBs in milk and environmental samples from selected flood-prone farms along the River Trent, where milk was shown, in
1998/99, to contain elevated levels of dioxins and PCBs compared with their matched controls.  

Since the previous study, trends in dioxin and PCB levels in milk, soil and grass have been examined. PBDE levels in the milk and environmental samples were also monitored for the current study.

Seasonal variation in levels of dioxins, PCBs and PBDEs were investigated. This was done by periodically monitoring levels of these contaminants in milk, soil, grass, silage, feed and bedding at one selected flood-prone farm and one non-flooding farm along the River Trent.

Results were interpreted using conventional statistical analysis. However, due to the relatively small number of farms investigated, a ‘weights of evidence approach’, based on Bradford Hill’s causation criteria methodology (i.e. establishing minimal conditions necessary to provide adequate evidence of a causal relationship between an incidence and a consequence), was also used to provide a more holistic interpretation.


 

Askham Bryan College,
Askham Bryan,
York,
YO23 3FR
01904 772277
enquiries@askham-bryan.ac.uk