I started my farming career after leaving Agricultural College in 1988. At that time, my family were farming about 250 acres with dairy and arable land in Omagh, Northern Ireland. We gradually built cow numbers up to 340 from 170 in Omagh, and 100 cows in Southern Ireland - in more recent years my brother moved from Southern Ireland to New Zealand and is now milking 600 cows.
My wife, Lorrie and I and our two young children, Kate and Stewart, have made the move to Scotland to convert a dry stock farm into a 1000 cow grass based dairy farm. Present cow numbers stand at 630. The point of this is to tell you what can be achieved via grass based dairying and how my studies have led me to believe how one can achieve an effective profitable dairy business and still achieve a positive family life.
The main messages I want to deliver are how to have an ever-expanding dairy farm business and still have a well-balanced family life. The family part, for us, cannot be compromised. The purpose of my Nuffield was to try and find the solution to this particular riddle. I guess that it is one that most ambitious people deal with all the time. What I found when I was away was that there is no magic corner of the world where these problems don’t exist and most people have the same problems the world over. Successful business people, in fact everyone, has the same worries about their children, what other people think of their actions, the list is endless.
These are in no particular order, because it is hard say which is actually more important.
- Right breed of cow (important, important, important)
- Cow numbers are what drives successful dairy farm businesses - i.e. breeding large numbers of stock from own herd.
- Family life can be compromised if proper structures are not in place.
- Seizing opportunities when they arise and being in position to do so.
- Maintain a positive relationship with bank.
- Goals were set and achieved before moving onto to next stage.
- Cash and simplicity is King. Never underestimate the cost of complication.
- Everyone has different goals and though usually different from one another they all can be correct!
- UK has staggering natural resources, which are very much under-utilised.
- Staff recruitment and management critical.