- News Articles
- Technical Articles
- Be a winner - DairyCo Dairy Farmer of the Year 2009
- Discover the true potential of grass through DairyCo
- First training event for vets in the DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan
- What if you could find the time to plan for the long term?
- Think Carefully About Crossbreeding
- Managing Milk Hygiene at Grazing
- Promoting the Image of Dairy Farming
- Helping Solve the Mastitis Puzzle
- What If you could find the time to plan for the long term?
- Fresh Air is Free
- Earth banked slurry lagoons – think before you dig!
- When was the last time you looked at your farm’s energy costs?
- Cattle Mobility Score
- Mastitis Project
- Mastistis Control Plan
- Crossbreeding Dairy Farmer
- Milk Matters - Water Use
- British Dairying Response
- Mastitis Control Plan Case Study
- National Osteoporosis Society launches new educational website
- Food a Fact of Life – Secondary school resources
- First Milk announce financial results for 2008/09
- Dairy Event & Livestock Show 2009
- A Little Book of Goodness
- Recruitment and people management made easy
- DairyCo chairman opens Harper Adams’ new £2.3m dairy unit
- Sand Beds
- Keeping the Energy Balance Neutral Through Transition
- Does Inbreeding Present a Risk To Your Herd?
- Hitchon Case Study
- Herd Hierarchy
- Abbey Farmers Challenge Dairyco Knowledge on Transition Cow Management
- New measures for EU dairy sectors
- Why Dry Cow Management Matters
- Simple Changes to Grass Management
- Precision Feeding for Productive Cows
- Lameness in British Dairy Herd
- Milk Matters
- Mastitis Control Plan Update
- Is calving index important for higher yielding herds?
- The School Milk Project helping celebrate World School Milk Day
- EU Commission’s High Level Expert Group on Milk meets for the first time (1)
- Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman interim results 2009
- Arla's new factory
- First Milk reduced shareholding in Wiseman
- Victory for aspiring athlete at the lord mayor’s mile race
- All change in the Jan 2010 proofs with calving ease indexes and new all-breed information
- Milk Matters - Energy Calculator
- Calving Ease and 2010 Changes
- Detection of standing heat is vital when timing insemination
- Feeding Dairy Cows
- Back to Basics on Slurry Pooling
- What if? Questions for DairyCo.
- First Milk’s chairman to replace the chief executive
- Scottish Health & Welfare Event
- Managing Autumn & Winter Grass - Richard Butter
- Cow Signals - reading cow behaviour to identify problem areas in their surroundings or routine
- Staff Management
- Focus on Foot Condition to Reduce Lameness
- Breeding Case Study - Tom King
- Press Releases
- Press Archive
Archive: What if you could find the time to plan for the long term?
Published 18 May 09
This page has been archived and no longer updated. more info
When Richard Davies's father said he wanted to retire completely from their dairy farm it was time to take stock and look at what was really needed to help make the business run smoothly.
But making plans for the future is hard when you're also trying to keep up with all the day to day tasks involved with running a farm. Despite this, Mr Davies decided that if he was going to make the decisions he needed to make, a little time out was in order, and the DairyCo What If? course provided the perfect opportunity to step away from the farm, take stock, and find the best way forward for the business.
Mr Davies manages and part owns Woodbridge Farm Partnership, a 580 acre, family run dairy farm in Dorset. The farm has 230 milkers with an average yield of 9000l, and 150 followers. As well as liquid milk the farm also produces Dorset Blue Vinny cheese.
"My father took partial retirement from running the farm about five years ago, so I'd been managing things for some time when he said he wanted to retire fully," explains Mr Davies. "I started to think seriously about what I needed to do to make sure we had enough labour, and how I was going to fund any changes that had to be made, and I also wanted to be sure that the mixed system we were using was right for us.
"With the possibility of increased labour costs I was also aware that I needed to maximise what I was getting from grazing. I did the DairyCo What if? to help my decision-making - I needed to be sure in my mind that what I was doing was the best thing in terms of profitability and practicality, and I wanted to look at which areas I could improve.
"I knew that the biggest problem I was facing was labour. Not only was my father retiring, but our two employees were approaching retirement age, so wouldn't want to be taking on any more work. I felt that what was needed was a full time dairyman, but I wasn't sure if the farm could afford the investment that would take. I was at a crossroads, and wanted to make sure that whatever direction I took was going to be best and most profitable."
The DairyCo What If? workshop is built around a revolutionary interactive computer program that offers farmers an opportunity to examine the impact of change on their own business - whether it be financial, feeding strategy, herd size or production system.
"The great thing about the course was that it gave me the opportunity to try out the different scenarios that I was considering for the farm," says Mr Davies.
"Being a 9000l herd I'm not running a high input high output system, but neither is it a low input low output one. We are very much sitting in the middle of those two systems. I like the flexibility this gives us, but wanted to be sure that it was the best place to be and that I wasn't compromising.
The computer program at the heart of the 'What If?' experience provides individual farm analysis at an unprecedented level and takes a fresh approach to cost calculations and nutrition in particular.
"Using the program I could try out different scenarios for the farm," explains Mr Davies. "I was able to see if I needed to increase cow numbers or yield in order to increase profitability, and if I was able to improve yield by improving my grazing. I could also see if there were any other ways to find the income.
"The four consultants who run the course all all have different information and points of view and that meant we had great discussions and there was a real pool of knowledge. It was great to be able to look at a whole raft of scenarios for your business, and at the potential effects of changes without actually having to do it."
"As a result of the course I learnt that there are significant benefits to profitability in using grazed grass and feeding carefully. I have improved my grassland management, for example, through better grazing techniques. I've also increased cow numbers, adding another 20 to the herd which has helped to maintain productivity.
"The biggest change I made was to take on a dairyman, which has worked incredibly well. Before I was basically in a position where I was fire-fighting, rushing round milking and tractor driving, I wasn't planning ahead or really concentrating on the figures, which is a really difficult situation to be in with the business. With a dairyman my time is released to be more organised, and as a result I'm able to make longer term plans for the farm. I also have a life, which is perhaps the best thing that doing the course has given me!"
Taking on a dairyman has also been good for the cows. "They're much better managed because our dairyman is there to focus on the job. It's been a commitment in terms of salary and house, but I will see a lot of that back through improved management and profitability.
"It's difficult to quantify the impact fully at this point as we only took our dairyman on in October, but the cows are looking and milking well, and getting into calf faster. Their feet are better and they're in general good health, which is all really encouraging.
"The main difference that's been made is that I have time to be more organised and really plan and run the business, and that's something we all need."