The Trehane Trust is proud to jointly sponsor Jason Vickery with the Dartington Cattle Breeding Trust
See this page on the Nuffield Farming Scholarships trust website
Reducing dairy farm costs to prosper in a global market
The Trehane Trust and The Dartington Cattle Breeders’ Trust
I believe that UK dairy farming has become over-technical, whereas with careful overall management and an eye on the ‘bigger picture’, a much more down to earth and practical approach would lower the cost of production and be far more sustainable. Via my study tour I wanted to prove that UK dairy farming can be profitable in a global market and to prove the argument that there is no reason why we cannot be cost efficient in our long term future.
To do this I studied the practices of the world’s best dairy farmers to establish common traits in controlling costs: controls that ensure these farmers consistently make a profit even during economic downturns. I visited farms and businesses in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and China. The New Zealand farmers have now undoubtedly become more profitable and efficient than ever. Australian farmers were inspirational in their attitude to adversity, but the highlight for me was to spend a week in China to see how they are expanding in everything they do with a resourcefulness, discipline and attitude that was awe-inspiring. There are many systems of dairy farming – intensive, extensive, low cost, high cost. With proper management all can be made to work – there is no single “right” system or “wrong” system. But what is certain is that, with the increasing volatility in world markets, UK dairy farmers must keep their cost of production down in order to prosper in a global market.
Certain criteria must apply to enable successful, profitable dairy farming.
My chief finding was that farmers must discipline themselves to control costs and spend wisely. Over-spending and over-managing do not necessarily lead to higher profits or efficiencies. Controlling costs, as opposed to increasing output, is proven to have a much greater chance of improving profit. But it requires the application of rigid self-discipline on the part of the farmer.
The most important learning curve for me was seeing the benefits of applying the principles of governance to farm businesses. Governance is about standing back from the day to day operation and management of a business and taking a forward looking picture view of the business to determine the path to a desired set of outcomes. I shall certainly be adopting this principle in my own farming business in future. I shall also adopt biological techniques using existing resources. This is a very cost effective way to improve one’s soil – the basic raw material of any farming enterprise - and ultimately lower costs. Adapting one’s own business to emulate successful models and practices seen elsewhere is a wholly beneficial approach.
The challenge for me now is to make these new principles and methods work and further improve my bottom line.
To view the complete report see : http://www.nuffieldinternational.org/rep_pdf/1409248637Jason-Vickery-report-2013.pdf