Business training course continues to prove its worth in the dairy industry

Published 23 July 18

A business course set up by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers offering individuals involved in dairying the opportunity to progress within the industry has seen many of its delegates successfully go on to do so after completing its sessions. 

The Entrepreneurs in Dairying (EID) course focuses on business efficiency and the key factors involved with working and running a dairy farm and also provides delegates with the opportunity to network and meet new contacts.

We caught up with some previous attendees to find out what made them enrol on the course, the skills they took away with them and what they had achieved since completing the programme.

 

OVERVIEW:  Freddie Lawder; 28 years old; currently part of a joint farming venture in Wales.Freddie

Having grown up on a smallholding in Shropshire it wasn't until a year's placement from Aberystwyth University that Freddie found his interest for dairy farming.  After spending this year on an organic high yielding dairy farm in Shropshire he returned to finish his degree before travelling to New Zealand, to work for a year, where he got the grazing-based dairy farming bug. 

“When I returned to the UK I took a job on an autumn calving farm in Hampshire, I was really lucky here as my boss encouraged me to do plenty of off-farm learning, of which the EID course was part of.

“He, like many other employers, recognised the value in employing staff who are keen to progress within the industry and helped me to earmark the courses which looked to have the most benefit in contributing to the progression of my career.”

There are certain elements of working day to day on a dairy farm that can make it difficult for staff to pick up particular, more office-based, skills and the idea of running courses such as the EID programme is to fill this skills gap and increase knowledge.

“I learnt a huge amount about the financial side of running a dairy farm, I'd had no experience on this side of things and the two days spent with Tony Evans were invaluable.

“EID gave me the confidence to have a crack at things like budgeting which had never really been on my radar.  One of the other main points I took from it was the opportunity to network with other like-minded people who were in similar situations and stages of their careers.”

Part of the 15 strong 2016 course at Bridgwater, Freddie goes on to say that the best piece of information he took from the programme was becoming familiar with spreadsheets and seeing what an annual budget or cash flow actually looked like.

“For someone, like myself, who isn't comfortable with that side of things it can be very daunting trying to create a budget from scratch without a good template to start from is overwhelming – I'm now much more equipped and have used these skills in moving my career forward to where I am now.

“Since completing the course I have entered into a joint venture on a spring calving farm in West Wales and as a limited company I am engaged in a contract farming agreement where I can invest and grow my own capital whilst I manage the enterprise.”

 

OVERVIEW:  Pete Webster; 38 years old; farming on a fixed based tenancy with extensive farming knowledge but very little dairy specific experience.Pete

Pete Webster had no real experience in the dairy sector when he enrolled on the course at Newton Rigg.  He had 15 years of beef and sheep farming behind him and a 30 year fixed based tenancy at his in-laws farm ahead of him with the decision of which system type to implement. 

“With a number of big decisions that would ultimately map my future success I felt I needed to fill the gaps in my dairying knowledge in order to move forward.

“I saw some information about the EID course and thought its programme looked particularly relevant as I needed to improve my knowledge and gain the confidence to make some changes to the current dairy system in place at the farm.  I was also keen to find out the best way of securing finance and ultimately setting up a viable and profitable farm business.”

With plans to run the new FBT dairy at his in-laws alongside a sheep enterprise Pete was aware he needed to make effective business choices in order to secure the family's future.

“The business planning sessions were useful as I've now taken on the new farm and have been able to confidently set out our strategy for the next few years.

“Without doubt the best piece of information I took away with me was the realisation that dairy farming isn't just about producing liquid milk – there are many ways to innovate and strengthen your business to secure its future, something I might not have realised before starting the course.

“I can now say that I have taken on the running of an 80 cow herd from my father in-law and have already implemented a new breeding system, paddock style grazing and more careful milk data recording and monitoring.

“If you're looking for the opportunity to progress your career and meet new contacts I’d highly recommend giving this course a go – the doors it can open are invaluable and you never know where they might lead.” 

 

OVERVIEW:  Francesca Beswick; 27 years old; works on her 200 cow family farm alongside being a freelance farm secretary.

FrancescaWorking on the family farm has always been part and parcel of family life for Francesca.  With ambitions of growing the farm and its success she spent four years as a digital marketing consultant outside of the industry and since returning, has realised the crossover between the two disciplines.

“I’ve always known that my passion lay with farming hence my reason for stepping out of my office job and back on to the farm.  However, even though I had farming knowledge there were still lots of gaps to fill and I was eager to find out the best ways of doing this.

“I looked around at what was available and when I saw the EID course advertised I thought it looked as though it would cover a lot of different key areas that were relevant to me.  I was particularly keen to learn more about accounts and the financial side of running a dairy business, along with the potential doors it could open, so thought that Tony’s two day session would be particularly valuable. 

“Taking part in the course made me realise that I had a real interest in the paperwork side of things which encouraged me to start training as a farm secretary, knowing that my knowledge of accounts and finances within the sector was very up to date off the back of doing the course.”

Learning more about finance not only helped Francesca progress her farm secretary career but also her outlook back on the farm at home; learning ways to enhance income and utilise it wisely to invest in future developments that are effective for the farm.

“One of the key things I learnt from the programme was that budgets and forecasts are actually easy to draw up – despite what people might think – the hardest bit is making sure you look at them regularly and keep them up to date where possible to ensure you are getting the most out of them.

“Off the back of the course I have not only continued to work on my family farm but have also gone on to become a fully IAgSA qualified, self-employed farm secretary covering farms in Cheshire and Staffordshire.  I feel completing the entrepreneurs in dairying programme gave me the confidence in helping me take the plunge in progressing my career, it also gave me a full bodied wealth of knowledge for accounts and finances.”

Tony Evans, partner at The Andersons Centre, who delivers the two day finance sessions across all of the colleges, says the UK dairy industry provides a great opportunity for people to successfully enter agriculture with the unique combination of low cost production ability and a great market demand for its products.

“EID provides knowledge and confidence for entrepreneurs to start to run their own business with clarity of direction. Past EID attenders are a great testimony to this course which provides further education and commercial know-how amongst other positive, like-minded people.

“All next generation dairy farmers would be well advised to attend to gain great experiences and understand how to realise their potential.”

 

This year’s courses will start in September at the following four colleges: Bridgwater and Taunton, Cannington; Reaseheath, Cheshire; Gelli Aur, Wales and SRUC, Dumfries.  Further information on course dates, speakers and content can be found online, alongside application forms, at www.rabdf.co.uk/entrepreneurs-in-dairying 

Sessions will cover staff management and communication, finance and forecasting, business plans, contracts and price management, challenges and opportunities, a processor visit and a session on how to finance your dairy business.  The final session sees all four colleges come together for the day to listen to inspirational speakers and find out about any available future opportunities.

If you have any queries then please contact 02476 639317 or email office@rabdf.co.uk

The course is run by the RABDF and supported by The Andersons Centre, AHDB Dairy and NFU.

Press enquiries and further information available from Victoria Chomiak (victoriachomiak@rabdf.co.uk) or 02476 639317