Farmers are spending too much money on their machinery, an agriculture expert has warned.

A Monitor Farm survey which assessed machinery and labour costs across the AHDB levy board's 21 monitor farms, including Rawston Farm in Blandford, has found a huge variation in costs.

Annual costs ranged from £288 to £593/ha per hectare across the farms, which measured from 97 to 1,278 hectares.

However, Harry Henderson of the AHDB, part of the team who led the survey, said although reviews found large variation between farms, the key issue is that machinery costs are too high.

He said: “There are growers using very high capacity machinery and not getting the return on expenditure in either reduced labour hours, costs or higher yields. Make no mistake; machinery is priced on the output it is capable of.

“Perhaps the surprising revelation is there is no correlation between farm sizes, meaning economies of scale are not being realised.”

Some of the smallest farm businesses ran the lowest costs, and some larger units incurred the highest costs per hectare. The idea that scale helps to spread costs does not always ring true, claims Mr Henderson.

He said: "While wet springs and catchy harvests mean that many farmers are keen to have increased drilling or harvesting capacity, farmers need to look at this policy in terms of cost to the business."

"Running tractors and machinery on non-essential work may well reduce the overall cost per hour of operation, but every hour is still a cost to the business."

The first step for farmers, Mr Henderson said, is to review their tractor usage and to keep what they already have for longer.

He said: "Trade-in values will be lower, but the cost of keeping machinery for longer is still lower than early replacement. In the longer term, a planned replacement policy, a review of the whole system and appropriate machinery care responsibilities placed with the operator are all important factors."

AHDB Monitor Farms bring together groups of farmers who want to improve their businesses by sharing performance information

The Monitor Farm survey was carried out in partnership with property consultant Strutt and Parker. Farmers can use AHDB’s Farmbench to help assess their machinery and business costs.