In a feature series on securing first jobs in agriculture, Farmers Guardian meets up with Matt Dymond who had always been determined to forge a career in farming.
It was probably no surprise when Matt Dymond from Liskeard, Cornwall, decided his future lay in the animal feed industry.
Having been born and raised on a family dairy farm and with family connections in the feed trade, it was a logical step forward.
Name: Matt Dymond
Lives: Liskeard, Cornwall
Role: Trainee feed specialist
Cornwall born and bred, 23-year-old Matt grew up on the 89-hectare (220-acre) farm which is home to 160 all-year-round calving cows managed by his father Colin, mother Jill, brother Thomas and sister Louise.
He has always been involved on the farm and at age 11 started a sheep enterprise with two ewes. The flock now numbers 200 early-lambing Suffolk Mules targeted at the early lamb market.
He says: “I have always wanted to be involved in farming and still help out at weekends, as well as managing sheep.
“But the farm was unlikely to be able to carry another set of hands full-time, so I decided to look outside the farm.”
After A levels, Matt completed a foundation degree in agriculture and farm business management at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, followed by a one-year course to complete a BSc (Hons) in rural business management at Duchy College.
During his time there, Matt worked part-time on an organic beef and sheep unit, as well as gaining work experience at a local butchers.
“It is really important to understand the supply chain and hear first-hand what consumers want, as this will affect production systems and help secure markets.
“There is no point just producing what you can. You have to produce what the market wants and this will influence the management system.”
It was, in part, this interest in systems of management which prompted Matt to decide to move into the animal feed trade, especially given the family connections.
His grandfather ran local feed company J Carne and Son, working with farmers in South Cornwall, and Matt was a common sight on the company’s lorries from an early age.
However, tragedy struck in the late 1990s when the mill was destroyed by fire and, rather than rebuilding, the decision was taken to sell the company, which was purchased by Bill Harper of Holsworthy, based at Harpers Feeds.
And it was here Matt joined in July 2013, a month after graduating.
Matt says: “The feed industry offers some great opportunities and challenges and there is never a dull moment.
“Working in the ruminant sector, you will be advising high yielding dairy herds one visit and a sheep farmer the next.
“Or it could be suckler beef, finisher beef or calf rearing. No two farms are the same, no two days are the same and every season brings a new set of challenges.
“With prices for milk, beef and lamb all under pressure, it is my job to help farmers produce the product the market wants as cost effectively as possible, keep livestock healthy and efficient.”
The initial training was intensive as he had to get up-to-speed with a wide range of different skills, and along with all new starters at Harpers Feeds, he followed a detailed training programme.
In addition to technical areas, such as nutrition, feed formulation and management systems, the training covered wider areas, including time management, first aid and practical driving and sales training.
Alongside specific training, Matt spent two months shadowing experienced sales specialists, including Malcolm Prout who used to work at Carnes.
Matt says: “The first few months are about getting up-to-speed, understanding the business and developing your own approach. Everyone who sells animal feed has different strengths and will go about the job slightly differently.”
However, to ensure high levels of professionalism, Matt, along with all specialists working for Harpers Feeds, is enrolled on the Feed Adviser Register (FAR), a scheme designed to ensure professionalism across the feed sector and operated by AIC.
FAR has more than 100 members committed to continuous professional development.
He says: “Being FAR-registered gives farmers confidence in the advice being delivered and it is important such a scheme exists to drive up standards.”
In addition to working with his own customers, Matt has been encouraged to maintain an active role in the farming community. He will be seen at Hallworthy market between two and three times a month so he can keep his finger on the pulse.
He has just completed his term as chairman of Liskeard Young Farmers, an organisation he has been a member of since the age of 16, getting involved in stockjudging, public speaking, event planning, fundraising and business and leadership along the way.
He has also just been appointed as a Bright Crop ambassador and will be working to promote the farming industry to young people.
He says: “Engaging with young people is vital for the future of our industry, so it is great to be involved.”
Matt says working in the feed trade is very rewarding and he is glad he made the career choice.
“My job keeps me close to the community and in a role where I can make a positive difference to many businesses. I have to get to know my customers and work with them to get the best performance. They are all different, so every day presents new challenges.
“The industry is ever-changing, facing up to global issues and I am always learning. I work on a broad diversity of systems which keeps me on my toes.
“You feel a sense of achievement when customers achieve a good result in the market, perhaps get show success or just improve overall performance, and it is always good when you get new customers who choose to work with you.
“Feeding farm animals is getting increasingly technical, meaning there is always something new to learn which will help livestock farmers continue to become more efficient at meeting market requirements.”