Aspiring dairy producers will have a chance to develop their skills and businesses following this year’s launch of Entrepreneurs in Dairying. Farmers Guardian meets two farmers who completed the course last year to find out how new and existing dairy farmers can benefit.
Organised by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF), Entrepreneurs in Dairying offers specialist tuition and coaching for those who wish to progress their careers and develop their own farming businesses.
The initiative will commence in September and return to Cannington, Somerset; Gelli Aur, Carmarthenshire; and Newton Rigg, Cumbria. A new addition to this year’s centres is Reaseheath College, Cheshire.
The programme runs in collaboration with AHDB Dairy, NFU and The Andersons Centre, and features five weekly sessions together with four full days delivered by industry specialists accompanied by a local farming business.
Each centre will offer 15 places and areas covered will primarily focus on starting your own business in dairy farming and better business and financial management.
RABDF policy director Tim Brigstocke says: “After training 35 students last year, we are delighted demand is running so high for this type of business training and we are in a position to relaunch Entrepreneurs in Dairying with an extended reach for up to 60 aspiring dairy farmers.
“Once again, the programme is designed to fill the apparent void of training among people already working on farms, for example those 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. This year, we are responding to demand with an additional two days focused purely on finance management.”
Previous training: MSc mathematics
Previous experience: After leaving school, I spent four years studying mathematics at university and successfully applied to Charityworks, a paid, 12-month programme for graduates starting a career in the non-profit sector.
After three years of working in the charity sector in London, my parents provided me with the option to return home to be involved in the day-to-day running and management of the family farm. I returned in spring last year.
Q. Why did you attend the course?
I saw the course as a great way to develop some business and financial skills, which I think will prove to be vital for every dairy farmer in the coming years. In addition, the chance to hear from a combination of technical experts and dairy businesses who are already putting these skills into practice seemed like it was an opportunity not to be missed.
Q. What did you get out of the course?
One key emphasis was the need to not only be an excellent technical operator on-farm, but also the importance of having top notch financial and business skills. The two-day finance course proved to be hugely useful. In addition to the content of the course, the opportunity to network, make contacts and share ideas with other like-minded young people in the sector cannot be underestimated.
Q. What are you doing now?
Continuing to work with my parents running the family farm.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
We are striving to constantly improve the unit and its 370-cow herd run on a low-cost grass-based system.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you learned from the initiative?
The course reaffirmed my strong belief that despite current market conditions, for positive, forward-thinking people, the dairy sector is, and will continue to be, an awesome place to live and work.
Q. What on-farm changes do you plan on making since completing the course?
Aside from gaining technical knowledge, the most important thing I have acted on since the course is seeking out opportunities for professional development.
While dairying by its very nature will always require a significant level of time commitment, it is important to balance this against time spent off-farm improving your skills and reflecting on your own goals.
I have been fortunate to attend a number of excellent development opportunities, such as conferences and open days since completing the course, each of which has proven to be useful.
Later this year, I will be completing a three-week study tour to New Zealand, which should provide me with even more ideas and inspiration.
Previous training: LLM medical law; LLB; PgDL
Previous experience: A total of 10 years at The King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regiment; the last five I was an army lawyer. I also played rugby at professional level for eight years, including captaining the Scotland Sevens, the British Army and the Combined Services.
Q. What did you get out of the course?
Entrepreneurs in Dairying helped me build contacts with people at the forefront of the industry – those who push things forward. While the course had a set structure, I was also able to tailor it to what I wanted.
The most important area for me was the focus on business management, the cornerstone of which was a two-day course beginning with personal goal-setting and culminating in developing a business plan.
In addition, the course promoted the Get Mentoring in Farming programme. I had the opportunity to acquire some guidance from fellow Cumbrian dairy farmer Robert Craig; his attitude and approach to business was very inspiring. I took home advice on how to approach farm business accounting with end goals. I have subsequently set out two- and five-year plans as a family with two small children as well as a farm.
Q.What are you doing now?
Currently knocking walls in sheds down to increase ventilation and moving calves into igloos. Having had several careers, dairy farming is the most demanding, complex and diverse job I have undertaken and is almost as all-encompassing as having six- and four-year-old children.
Q.What are your plans for the future?
To achieve and develop our two- and five-year goals by ensuring the family farming business is dynamic and healthy.