The Ultimate Buyers Guide to Farm Management Software UK

At a Glance.

Farm management software is a valuable tool that helps agricultural businesses keep a record of all operations on the farm, remaining compliant and in control.

Types of farm soft­ware include farm accounts, crop records, live­stock records and activ­i­ty planning.

The main ben­e­fits of farm man­age­ment soft­ware include reduced time spent on admin, improved abil­i­ty to be in con­trol and com­pli­ant as well as enabling agri-busi­ness­es to become more strate­gic and efficient.

The key things to con­sid­er when pur­chas­ing farm man­age­ment soft­ware are the fea­tures includ­ed, ease of use, lev­el of sup­port avail­able and of course pur­chase price and any on-going costs.

What is Farm Man­age­ment Software?

Farm man­age­ment soft­ware is a set of com­put­er pro­grams designed for the agri­cul­tur­al indus­try to help record, track and analyse all data relat­ed to the farm. It is used as a tool to plan, man­age and stream­line oper­a­tions on the farm such as farm accounts, live­stock activ­i­ty and field records. 

Farm man­age­ment soft­ware can be used to cap­ture data from all aspects of dif­fer­ent farms such as dairy herd man­age­ment, beef cat­tle man­age­ment, sheep flock man­age­ment, farm accounts and field management.

Some farm man­age­ment soft­ware focus on just one type of farm­ing activ­i­ty such as suck­ler beef farms, with the focus on help­ing farm­ers get their cows back in calf quick­er for exam­ple. Oth­er types of agri­cul­tur­al soft­ware cov­er the many dis­parate areas of farm record keep­ing includ­ing finan­cial data, pay­roll as well as live­stock and arable management.

As farm­ing is a niche, spe­cialised indus­try it is impor­tant the right soft­ware is used to meet the spe­cif­ic demands of this sector.

As the use of tech­nol­o­gy is grow­ing, lots of farm soft­ware can now link with oth­er agri-tech­nol­o­gy such as EID read­ers, trac­tor GPS sys­tems and weigh­ing machines. This can cre­ate more effi­cien­cy on the farm and save time and labour costs.

Why Record Keep­ing On Farms Is Important?

It is imper­a­tive farm­ers keep accu­rate records of the activ­i­ty on their farm for leg­isla­tive and man­age­ment pur­pos­es. Farm man­age­ment soft­ware can make it eas­i­er and quick­er to record the data and gives them access to it in one cen­tralised place. 

Some farm record keep­ing is manda­to­ry in UK law such as sub­mis­sion of farm VAT via HMRC’s MTD por­tal as well as any move­ments of live­stock includ­ing cat­tle, sheep and pigs. Hav­ing the right soft­ware to process and sub­mit this infor­ma­tion helps ensure farm­ers ful­fil their legal duties.

Not only does it help keep you the right side of the law, hav­ing accu­rate farm records is invalu­able in help­ing farm­ers make the best man­age­ment deci­sions. For exam­ple, up-to-date real time data is impor­tant in know­ing the yield and prof­itabil­i­ty of your farm. Hav­ing this infor­ma­tion to hand is nec­es­sary for mak­ing any deci­sions around the future of the farm business.

Hav­ing evi­dence of what is hap­pen­ing across the farm is also imper­a­tive for farm­ers look­ing to ben­e­fit from any assur­ance schemes such as Red Trac­tor and RSP­CA. Hav­ing in-depth accu­rate records allows them to prove they are meet­ing cer­tain guide­lines and stan­dards. Sim­i­lar ben­e­fits apply to access­ing gov­ern­ment grants and sub­si­dies as show­ing evi­dence of things such as ener­gy use or spe­cif­ic sprays via on-going records makes it eas­i­er to apply to and be award­ed these extra income sources.

5 Types of Farm Man­age­ment Software

As farm­ing is such a diverse sec­tor, there are many dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions in farm man­age­ment software.

How­ev­er, the main 5 types of farm man­age­ment soft­ware are:

  1. Farm account­ing: this soft­ware is used to car­ry out the farm’s book­keep­ing and often cov­ers areas such as cash flow, expen­di­ture, invoic­ing, gross mar­gins and VAT sub­mis­sion. Where farm accounts soft­ware dif­fers from main­stream account­ing pro­grams is in its ease in record­ing self-billing invoic­es (not found in oth­er indus­tries gen­er­al­ly) and in the enter­prise report­ing. You can get sim­ple farm accounts soft­ware which records the essen­tials need­ed to record and report your farm’s finan­cial data, or you can pur­chase more advanced accounts pro­grams cov­er­ing areas such as auto bank rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and advanced reporting.
  2. Dairy herd man­age­ment: this record keep­ing pro­gram is used to keep track of and mon­i­tor data relat­ing to dairy herds. These often con­tain indi­vid­ual cow records, record­ing aspects such as births, weight, med­i­cines, health and fer­til­i­ty. Dairy man­age­ment soft­ware is also used to help with cross-com­pli­ance and assur­ance schemes.
  3. Cat­tle herd man­age­ment: this soft­ware allows beef farm­ers to man­age and analyse exact­ly what is going on with their herd. The pro­gram is like­ly to cov­er areas such as births, move­ments, med­i­cine admin­is­tra­tion and weight gains. It can be used to main­tain the herd’s health and effi­cien­cy as well as com­ply­ing with legal and assur­ance requirements.
  4. Field and Crop man­age­ment: arable farm­ers can use this soft­ware to keep track of what is going on in each of their fields, record crops and plan rota­tions. Farm field man­age­ment soft­ware can be used to track crop yields and gen­er­ate reports for audits.
  5. Sheep man­age­ment: flock man­age­ment soft­ware allows sheep farm­ers to record and view indi­vid­ual sheep data such as births, move­ments and med­i­cines. Hav­ing this data in one place not only allows you to remain com­plaint but it can give the sheep farmer more insight into the his­to­ry of each ewe such as lamb­ings, health and geneal­o­gy data.

Ben­e­fits of Farm Man­age­ment Software

Be in control

As farm man­age­ment pro­grams can store and view all the rel­e­vant data in one place, it allows users to stay in con­trol of their farm. The soft­ware gives them the abil­i­ty to view any upcom­ing actions such as pay­ing a sup­pli­er or when a cow is due to come in heat. The soft­ware helps farm­ers feel in con­trol of the finan­cial and resource-man­age­ment side of their busi­ness to ensure the most appro­pri­ate actions are tak­en at the best time. 

Save time

Farm man­age­ment soft­ware is built to cre­ate effi­cien­cies for the farmer. Instead of hav­ing mul­ti­ple spread­sheets or messy paper records, the soft­ware allows the data to be kept organ­ised in one place for easy analy­sis and retrieval. This can save time inputting, analysing and send­ing the data.

Save mon­ey

With the advances in soft­ware tech­nol­o­gy, these pro­grams are becom­ing more user-friend­ly with even more func­tion­al­i­ty. Some farm man­age­ment soft­ware allows you to auto­mate man­u­al process­es such as bulk data input and cal­cu­la­tions. This may help farm­ers save on the costs of a farm sec­re­tary or book­keep­er for example. 

In terms of finan­cial man­age­ment, agri-soft­ware can help farm­ers track their expens­es, income, and prof­its. This can help them make bet­ter finan­cial deci­sions, and ulti­mate­ly make more prof­it for their business.

Peace of mind

With farm man­age­ment soft­ware, users can be reas­sured that they are meet­ing all the rel­e­vant legal and assur­ance obligations. 

74% of farm­ers have seen the amount of farm admin they are hav­ing to do increase in the last 3 year.

With an increase in pres­sure on farm­ers to adhere to var­i­ous guide­lines and report­ing, hav­ing soft­ware that gen­er­ates all the rel­e­vant reports and out­puts gives them com­plete peace of mind. 

An exam­ple of this is VAT, which is now com­pul­so­ry to sub­mit via HMRCs online por­tal via an approved soft­ware sup­pli­er. This makes it imper­a­tive that farm­ers use an appro­pri­ate and up-to-date farm accounts pro­gram to ensure their VAT is record­ed and received in line with cur­rent legal requirements. 

Data secu­ri­ty is also enhanced when using a pro­fes­sion­al soft­ware pro­gram com­pared to using a spread­sheet or paper record keep­ing system.

4 Benefits of using farm management software

Is it a Legal Require­ment To Use Farm Man­age­ment Software?

It is not a legal require­ment to use farm man­age­ment soft­ware. It is up to the indi­vid­u­als to decide how they would like to keep a record of their farm’s data. 

How­ev­er, when it comes to VAT, HMRC have made it manda­to­ry for all busi­ness­es to keep VAT records and sub­mit VAT Returns using com­pat­i­ble software.

There are also sev­er­al oth­er aspects of farm record keep­ing that are manda­to­ry and often hav­ing a spe­cif­ic man­age­ment soft­ware pro­gram makes keep­ing & main­tain­ing these records sig­nif­i­cant­ly eas­i­er and more effi­cient . Some com­mon types of records that farm­ers may be required to keep include:

Finan­cial records: Farm­ers may be required to keep records of their income and expens­es, includ­ing receipts for pur­chas­es, sales records, bank state­ments, and tax documents.

Crop records: Farm­ers may be required to keep records of the types of crops grown, the amount har­vest­ed, and any treat­ments or fer­tilis­ers used.

Live­stock records: Farm­ers may be required to keep records of the num­ber and types of ani­mals on their farm, their birth and death dates, move­ments and any treat­ments or vac­ci­na­tions administered.

Pes­ti­cide and chem­i­cal records: Farm­ers may be required to keep records of any pes­ti­cides or oth­er chem­i­cals used on their crops, includ­ing the type, amount, and appli­ca­tion date.

Employ­ment records: If the farm employs work­ers, the farmer may be required to keep records of their hours worked, wages paid, and any ben­e­fits pro­vid­ed. The same applies even for casu­al work­ers or beat­ers who may only be work­ing for a few days at a time. How­ev­er, there are some spe­cif­ic agri­cul­tur­al pay­roll soft­ware pro­grams avail­able that take this into account and makes it straight­for­ward to keep a legal record of these workers.

It’s impor­tant for farm­ers to research and under­stand the spe­cif­ic record-keep­ing require­ments for their par­tic­u­lar farm­ing oper­a­tion to ensure they are in com­pli­ance with all applic­a­ble regulations.

More, up to date infor­ma­tion on the leg­isla­tive respon­si­bil­i­ty of UK farm­ers can be found here: https://​www​.gov​.uk/​g​o​v​e​r​n​m​e​n​t​/​o​r​g​a​n​i​s​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​d​e​p​a​r​t​m​e​n​t​-​f​o​r​-​e​n​v​i​r​o​n​m​e​n​t​-​f​o​o​d​-​r​u​r​a​l​-​a​f​fairs

How Do I Choose The Best Farm Man­age­ment Software?

Choos­ing the best farm man­age­ment soft­ware can be a daunt­ing task, espe­cial­ly as there are so many fac­tors to con­sid­er and it is often hard to direct­ly com­pare products.

How­ev­er, there are sev­er­al fac­tors that you can con­sid­er to help you make an informed decision. 

Here are some key fac­tors to con­sid­er when select­ing farm man­age­ment soft­ware. We have also cre­at­ed a visu­al check­list below to help you in your deci­sion making.

Fea­tures: Con­sid­er the fea­tures that the soft­ware offers and whether they align with your spe­cif­ic needs. For exam­ple, some soft­ware may offer inven­to­ry man­age­ment, live­stock con­trol, crop plan­ning, finan­cial man­age­ment, and field map­ping. You may want to con­sid­er a sin­gle soft­ware provider that offers pro­grams to record data from all areas of your farm or you may decide on a few dif­fer­ent soft­ware prod­ucts, spe­cial­ist in dif­fer­ent aspects.

Look for soft­ware that pro­vides the fea­tures that are impor­tant to you and the future needs of your farm.

Whichev­er soft­ware provider you choose, make sure they offer reg­u­lar updates so you can be sure you’ll be ben­e­fit­ting from on-going new features.

Ease of use: If you’re not too tech-savvy it is real­ly impor­tant you choose soft­ware that is easy to use and has a user-friend­ly inter­face. You ide­al­ly want to be give a per­son­alised demon­stra­tion of the soft­ware so you can get a real feel for your­self and how easy (or not) it may be to operate. 

Every piece of new soft­ware will take some time to get com­fort­able with but you don’t want to be stuck with a pro­gram you do not feel con­fi­dent using, or one in which you only use a few fea­tures of. Con­sid­er what skills may be required to make best use of the soft­ware and whether there is any train­ing or guid­ance offered as part of the package.

Some farm soft­ware com­pa­nies such as SUM-IT soft­ware offer a free inter­ac­tive demo where you can view their farm man­age­ment sys­tem in action at your own pace.

Book a FREE Live Demo

Com­pat­i­bil­i­ty: Make sure that the soft­ware is com­pat­i­ble with your exist­ing hard­ware and soft­ware. Is there oth­er tech on your farm that would be use­ful to inte­grate with this such as par­lour machin­ery or elec­tric weigh­ing scales? 

Con­sid­er whether you require the soft­ware to be accessed on mobile devices or just a desk­top computer.

Cus­tomer sup­port: Look for soft­ware that offers reli­able cus­tomer sup­port, includ­ing a read­i­ly avail­able phone line so there is some­one you can call if and when you expe­ri­ence any issues. Con­sid­er the avail­abil­i­ty of cus­tomer sup­port and whether it meets your needs. If all you can access is an online chat bot or a call cen­tre in anoth­er coun­try, this may cause more headaches and prob­lems in the future.

Price: Con­sid­er the cost of the soft­ware and whether it fits with­in your bud­get. Look for soft­ware that offers flex­i­ble pric­ing plans that meet your spe­cif­ic needs. Also con­sid­er the 5 – 10 year invest­ment costs if com­par­ing sub­scrip­tion-based soft­ware to one-off pur­chase options.

User reviews: Look for user reviews and rat­ings of the soft­ware to get an idea of its reli­a­bil­i­ty and user sat­is­fac­tion. Con­sid­er the feed­back from oth­er farm­ers who have used the software.

Secu­ri­ty: Choose soft­ware that offers robust secu­ri­ty fea­tures to pro­tect your farm data from cyber threats. Look for soft­ware that offers data encryp­tion, secure login, and reg­u­lar soft­ware updates.

By con­sid­er­ing these fac­tors, you can choose a farm man­age­ment soft­ware that meets your spe­cif­ic needs and helps you man­age your farm oper­a­tions effi­cient­ly. It’s worth tak­ing the time to research and eval­u­ate mul­ti­ple options before mak­ing a final decision.

Farm Software Purchase Checklist

Down­load a copy of this free checklist

Do I Need the Inter­net to use Farm Man­age­ment Software?

The answer to whether you need the inter­net to use farm man­age­ment soft­ware depends on the spe­cif­ic soft­ware you are using.

Some farm man­age­ment soft­ware is designed to be used offline, which means that you do not need an inter­net con­nec­tion to use the soft­ware. This type of soft­ware typ­i­cal­ly runs on a desk­top com­put­er or lap­top and stores all of the data on the local hard dri­ve. You can access and update the infor­ma­tion stored in the soft­ware with­out an inter­net con­nec­tion. With these pro­grams, all data is stored offline, either on your com­put­er or a back-up copy you have made.

On the oth­er hand, some farm man­age­ment soft­ware is designed to be used online, which means that you need an inter­net con­nec­tion to use the soft­ware. This type of soft­ware is typ­i­cal­ly accessed through a web brows­er and stores all of the data in the cloud. You need an inter­net con­nec­tion to access the soft­ware and to update the infor­ma­tion stored in the software.

Some agri-soft­ware sup­pli­ers give you a choice of run­ning in the cloud or access­ing your data offline on your com­put­er. Due to the often rur­al loca­tion of farms, inter­net con­nec­tiv­i­ty can some­times be an issue so this is some­thing you may want to con­sid­er when pur­chas­ing new software.

It is worth not­ing how­ev­er that if you want to car­ry out cer­tain actions such as sub­mit­ting VAT to HMRC or noti­fy­ing BCMS of a change in your herd, access to the inter­net is required. This does not mean how­ev­er that con­tin­ued inter­net access is required, just at times when sub­mit­ting this data to exter­nal agencies.

Can I Access the Soft­ware On My Smartphone?

Many agri­cul­tur­al soft­ware sup­pli­ers are devel­op­ing farm man­age­ment apps which allow the user to access their busi­ness’ data on their smart­phone. This gives the farmer the option to view herd or field data when they are out and about on their farm. It can also save time back in the office as new actions can be updat­ed as they hap­pen, instead of trans­fer­ring them onto the farm PC at the end of the day.

Some farm man­age­ment soft­ware has been designed to be used pure­ly as an app on your smart­phone. These apps tend to be focused on a spe­cif­ic area of farm record keep­ing such as track­ing live­stock for example.

If access on your mobile is a pri­or­i­ty, you should check the spe­cif­ic require­ments and capa­bil­i­ties of the farm man­age­ment soft­ware you are inter­est­ed in to deter­mine whether it is com­pat­i­ble with your smart­phone and its’ spe­cif­ic plat­form e.g. Android or iOS.

Is Farm Soft­ware Easy to Use?

Farm man­age­ment soft­ware can vary in terms of ease of use, depend­ing on the spe­cif­ic soft­ware and the user’s expe­ri­ence with tech­nol­o­gy. How­ev­er, many farm soft­ware options are designed to be user-friend­ly and intu­itive, with fea­tures and inter­faces that are specif­i­cal­ly tai­lored to the needs of farm­ers and agri­cul­tur­al businesses.

Some farm soft­ware solu­tions may have more of a learn­ing curve than oth­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly if the user is not famil­iar with tech­nol­o­gy. How­ev­er, many soft­ware com­pa­nies offer train­ing and sup­port ser­vices to help users get up to speed on the soft­ware and make the most of its’ fea­tures. It is always worth look­ing into what sup­port options are avail­able before you pur­chase any new soft­ware to make sure there is help out there if you were to need it.

Often you can get feel for a com­pa­ny by speak­ing to them of the phone ini­tial­ly and see­ing how they han­dle your ini­tial enquiry. It is always a good idea to request a per­son­alised demon­stra­tion of the soft­ware, per­haps even in-per­son on your farm, to get a real­ly good insight into how easy (or not!) it may be to operate.

Some farm soft­ware com­pa­nies offer Starter’ pack­ages which are more suit­ed for small­er busi­ness­es look­ing for more straight­for­ward and sim­ple means to record and access their data. This can be a good option if you are per­haps mov­ing up from a spread­sheet-type record keep­ing solu­tion and want some­thing that is easy to use.

How much does farm man­age­ment soft­ware cost?

The cost of farm man­age­ment soft­ware can vary depend­ing on the spe­cif­ic soft­ware and the fea­tures and func­tion­al­i­ty it offers. It can range from say £200 – 2,000. Here are some gen­er­al fac­tors that can impact the cost of farm man­age­ment software:

  • Fea­tures and func­tion­al­i­ty: The more fea­tures and func­tion­al­i­ty farm man­age­ment soft­ware offers, the more expen­sive it is like­ly to be. For exam­ple, soft­ware that includes fea­tures for full crop man­age­ment, live­stock man­age­ment as well as finan­cial man­age­ment will typ­i­cal­ly be more expen­sive than soft­ware that only includes basic features.
  • Num­ber of users or enter­pris­es: Some farm man­age­ment soft­ware options charge based on the num­ber of users or busi­ness­es that will be using the soft­ware. How­ev­er, oth­er soft­ware providers have a fixed price for pur­chas­ing the soft­ware which can then be used across mul­ti­ple busi­ness­es. This can be espe­cial­ly ben­e­fi­cial for farm sec­re­taries and book­keep­ers who may be look­ing for farm soft­ware to use across a range of their clients.
  • Cloud-based vs. on-premise: Cloud-based farm man­age­ment soft­ware may be priced dif­fer­ent­ly than on-premise soft­ware, espe­cial­ly if you are inad­ver­tent­ly pur­chas­ing the latest/​modern ver­sion by opt­ing for the cloud-based option.
  • Annu­al sub­scrip­tion vs. one-time pur­chase: Lots of farm man­age­ment soft­ware options now require an on-going month­ly or annu­al sub­scrip­tion fee, while there are still some oth­ers, such as SUM-IT, avail­able for a one-time pur­chase fee.

When con­sid­er­ing the price of a new soft­ware pro­gram, it is worth cal­cu­lat­ing the cost over say 5 or 10 years. It can be tempt­ing to be swayed by attrac­tive intro­duc­to­ry low-price month­ly sub­scrip­tions but these can add up once you’ve used the pro­gram for a few years. As most farm­ers stick with their cho­sen soft­ware for a num­ber of years, it can be bet­ter val­ue to con­sid­er a one-time pur­chase option where you don’t need to wor­ry about the on-going costs which may inevitably rise out­side of your control.

With these fac­tors in mind, the cost of farm man­age­ment soft­ware can range from a cou­ple of hun­dred pounds per year to sev­er­al thou­sand pounds, depend­ing on the soft­ware and its fea­tures. Not many farm soft­ware com­pa­nies pub­lish a set price but there are some com­pa­nies that are more trans­par­ent with their prices.

Can You Get Free Farm Man­age­ment Software?

Due to the com­plex and oner­ous pro­gram­ming task to pro­duce farm man­age­ment soft­ware you gen­er­al­ly can­not access any com­plete­ly free of charge in the UK.

How­ev­er, some soft­ware options may offer a free tri­al or free ver­sion with lim­it­ed fea­tures, allow­ing users to try the soft­ware before com­mit­ting to a sub­scrip­tion or pur­chase. It is impor­tant to care­ful­ly eval­u­ate the fea­tures and pric­ing of dif­fer­ent farm man­age­ment soft­ware options to deter­mine the best fit for your needs and budget.

If you are look­ing for a more com­pre­hen­sive pack­age of farm man­age­ment soft­ware that requires lit­tle knowl­edge of com­put­ers or tech­nol­o­gy, it may be worth tak­ing at look at the options SUM-IT Com­put­ers offer. They offer the choice of Cloud or PC-based and their pric­ing is always trans­par­ent with a one-off pur­chase cost. More­over, they have an expert, reli­able and ded­i­cat­ed UK sup­port team who are on hand 6 days a week (8am-8pm) to help answer any queries you may have. They also offer a free no-oblig­a­tion demo, either online or on-site so you can see how it works before you part with any money.

Good luck with your search for the best farm soft­ware to suit your busi­ness. Remem­ber the right pro­gram can actu­al­ly decrease your admin time, giv­ing you more time to spend what you love doing out on the farm!