There will be people who may argue that Henden’s operating costs are expensive compared to other dairy farms. There are some issues to be considered, however.
M&S buys our milk and pays a good price relative to other contracts in the UK. In return, however, the company demands high standards for infrastructure, livestock welfare and production. Most other milk sales contracts are less demanding. As a consequence such dairy farms have a not insignificant cost advantage when it comes to production.
Away from M&S's conditions we at Henden strive to be the best in what we do. We, therefore, try our best to go above and beyond the standards required of us. For example:
1. we have installed large fans to improve our livestock living conditions when they are in the barns. These were expensive to instal and dear to run, but they have already been proven to be worth it;
2. we pay particular attention to the handling of waste;
3. we look after our staff well. It always amazes us that when one reads the websites of the superstores there is typically much mention of livestock welfare, but none of staff welfare. The farming industry has arguably the worst incidences of accidents of any industry here in the UK. We ensure our staff are housed in proper houses, are looked after and paid well and are fully briefed on safety matters;
4. we do our very best to keep the farm tidy at all times. This takes time to do, but it makes the site that much more aesthetically pleasing and promotes safety;
5. we spend considerable time on administration so that we are always up to date on what is going on on the farm, both in terms of operating and financial matters. This makes good business sense;
6. we host many intern visits every year, which is something we enjoy. We are popular with many students. Hosting interns itself costs money as we have to spend our time training them and watching out for them. These young people are, however, the future of farming and so we are happy to make this investment;
7. finally, while we include all costs in our analysis in a simple, straightforward way, many farms do not. Take salaries, for example. Our costs include all of our salary (although we the Partners get paid or draw nothing from the farm). For many other farms, there may be a reference to salaries above the profit/loss line, but there is also often a reference below the lines to "drawings". In effect this is the salaries of the owners.
Have we got everythying right? Absolutely not. We continue to learn. We do, though, continue to strive for perfection even as the weather and market conditions throw challenges our way almost every week. Such is life.