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Ambitious dairy farmers offered training to improve skills for future business

Ambitious dairy farmers and new entrants into the sector are being offered training to improve their skills in developing successful businesses.

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RABDF has relaunched its Entrepreneurs in Dairying programme to encourage aspiring and existing dairy farmers to better their businesses and undertake new training.

 

The initiative, which has so far trained 78 individuals over the last two years, is aimed at new entrants coming into agriculture and those already running a dairy farming business and will start in September this year.

 

Programmes will run at Cannington College, Somerset; Gelli Aur, Carmarthenshire; Newton Rigg, Cumbria; and Reaseheath College, Cheshire. Each centre will offer 15 places.

 

Training is in collaboration with AHDB Dairy, NFU and The Andersons Centre, and will feature six weekly sessions, together with two full days delivered by industry specialists accompanied by a local farming business.

 

Management

Content will focus on starting up in dairy farming and improving businesses and financial management.

 

RABDF policy director Tim Brigstocke says: “The programme is designed to fill the apparent void of training among people already working on-farm. For example, those after five years out of college, herd managers and farmers’ sons and daughters without a clear future on the family unit.

 

“They are all keen to progress up the ladder, however to do so they require training and coaching in specialist areas, such as how to farm in their own right through joint ventures or contracting arrangements and how to run a business.”

 

Farmers Guardian met two dairy farmers who have completed Entrepreneurs in Dairy – one who has returned to the family farm and another who has realised a lifelong ambition for a new start up.

 

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Dairy Farmer: Edward Morgan, Mold

Dairy Farmer: Edward Morgan, Mold

What previous training have you undertaken?

A BA (Hons) in geography at the University of Aberystwyth.

 

What is your role on the family farm?

I have worked on Carreg-y-Llech Farm from a young age after school and in the holidays. After graduating, I worked at home for 12 months before spending 10 months on a New Zealand dairy farm.

This was a typical spring-calving herd, milking 1,000 cows on a low cost grass-based system. Through working on-farm, I was able to learn about grass utilisation and the importance of controlling costs within the business.

All aspects of the business had a ‘cost’ associated to it, something historically we tend to have overlooked.

I then returned to the family farm, which at the time was milking 120 cows. Since then, the herd has increased to milking 220 autumn-calving Holstein Friesians.

 

What is your farming system?

This move was made to enable the herd to be managed as one group and allow it to realise the full potential of grazing grass throughout summer before calving and housing in onto a winter diet in autumn.

All milking cows are served through DIY AI and heifers by a Genus RMS technician. Holstein Friesian straws are used for seven weeks, with British Blue and Aberdeen-Angus to follow.

 

Why did you enroll on the course?

I thought it would provide an excellent opportunity for personal development and I am always keen to attend anything educational in the dairy sector.

 

What did you learn?

I have developed the confidence to go forward and also in my knowledge, for example, on milk markets and the industry. It was inspiring to meet with like-minded people, successful farming individuals and some key industry leaders.

I understand why attention to detail is key to any business success – whether you work for a worldwide farming operation or your own farm.

I concluded there is always an opportunity out there for everyone. While these opportunities do not come easily, everyone can succeed provided they have determination and work hard.

 

What are you doing now and what are your future plans?

I am concentrating on improving the herd and already decided to move the herd from all-year-round-calving to an autumn block. Fertility is an issue with our cows, therefore I am now considering cross-breeding in the hope this will breed a better cow.

We have recently taken on extra land and buildings, which has enabled me to reduce costs by making more home-grown forage and put all my heifer replacements on one site.

I have kept all Friesian bull calves. These were previously sold at three weeks and the aim now is to sell these finished at about 12 months.

I currently take part in the Udder Group, a discussion which gives me the chance to learn from successful farmers. Annual benchmarking enables us to make useful cost comparisons with the aim of improving year-on-year.

As to the future, I need to look at either a new dairy enterprise or alternative income source which can be generated on-farm.

 

What do you plan to change on-farm since completing the course?

  1. The business has already changed with the addition of extra land
  2. The importance of valuing staff, keeping everyone involved and informed about the direction the business is heading in, and not being afraid of employing people with expertise within the business
  3. The need to continually look at the farm accounts for cost control and to improve efficiency

New entrant: Eamonn Roughley, Penrith

New entrant: Eamonn Roughley, Penrith

What previous training have you undertaken?

I had a wealth of business, managerial and commercial expertise, built up over many years of working in the manufacturing and retail sectors.

Although not from a farming background, I have always been passionate about farming and, following a move up to Cumbria, I decided I wanted a career change and to move into the agricultural sector full-time.

 

Why did you apply for the course?

I believe it was the gateway into a career in agriculture and the dairy industry in particular. It offered a comprehensive insight into the industry, the opportunity to develop relevant skills, at the same time as adapting existing skills and experience to an agricultural context.

I came away with a detailed overview of the industry, its challenges and opportunities, and the tools I need to devise my personal roadmap for further progression.

I have established a network of useful contacts which has helped me on my journey, whether it be with opportunities for further training, advice or practical experience on-farm.

 

What are your future plans?

I am in the process of getting my own business off the ground, focusing primarily around mobility scoring and foot healthcare, grass and soil analysis and project management.

I have taken on independent sales agent positions with a couple of organisations with product ranges complementing our own offer and strategy.

I have recently qualified as a certified CowSignals trainer and am in the process of incorporating a training offer into our business model.

Future plans include adding a calf/heifer rearing enterprise to the business, either through a share farming agreement or other contract farming arrangement.

 

What do you plan to change on-farm since completing the course?

  1. Communicate the business strategy and work effectively with all stakeholders to achieve short- and long-term objectives
  2. Continue learning, be receptive to new ideas, wherever they come from, and be willing to share knowledge and best practice for the benefit of all
  3. Continue to grow the business and look for new opportunities to expand and diversify

 

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Entrepreneurs in Dairying programme

  • Application deadline is September 8
  • Programme start dates vary depending on the college
  • Programme features six three-hour sessions, plus a full two-day finance course during the period of September to December 2016 and a final one-day session in January 2017
  • The cost of the programme is £375 plus VAT
  • Minimum age for application is 21 years, with no upper age limit
  • For more information, contact Victoria Chomiak on 0845 458 2711, or email victoriachomiak@rabdf.co.uk
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