It’s the one expenditure stream that farmers can’t avoid – having to stock up on supplies. Profitable farms must have regular and diverse supplies to keep churning out the products to keep the revenue coming in. Farmers can cut back on many items but if they need feed, or fencing wire, or fertiliser, or poultry supplies they simply have to go out and buy them.
But now farmers have an extra weapon in their armoury which enables them to be more selective about how much they pay for supplies – modern technology. In the past farmers relied on catalogues or newspaper ads, the local farm shop or word of mouth. Now they can walk out of the cow shed, into their office and fire up the laptop.
There is a staggering array of information available to help them find the best price for cattle feed, worming products or that new pair of shocking pink ladies wellies that their wife wants for her birthday.
The world wide web means farmers are no longer tied to a few suppliers. They simply surf the internet to track down the best rates, not to mention the best advice. Information about which products are best for what problem is freely available too. A little time spent on the internet can mean a large saving in overall costs.
That does not mean, however, that the local shop might not have the best deal. One of the things in their favour is that they usually know the customers and want them to keep coming back. And buying locally normally means there are no delivery or postage charges. Farmers can simply take away what they need then and there.
Farmers’ markets can also be a good source of farm supplies. As long as they are not too many miles away, they can be a cheap and easy way to pick up what you need. It’s best to arrive either early or late. Arriving early means you get the first, or nearly first, pick of what’s on offer. On the other hand, arriving late means you might be able to pick up some good discounts. After all, if the product is not sold it means it has to be packed up and taken back again. And at markets cash is king. Unlike the internet with its plastic money, you can haggle. A pocketful of small bills can be a powerful persuader.