Monday, 29 August 2011

Can GB Dairy Farmers do well during the London Olympics? I'm Not Sure!

A blunt question….Do you think the UK dairy industry is going to benefit from the London Olympics 2012???????????
I’m not sure I have a feeling the Games will come & go. We’ll be asking, why didn’t we get our share in the benefits that the London Olympics might have brought to British farmers. If you disagree, where are the dairy products that will be boosted by the world’s top athletes being in the UK in less than 12 months time? We have less than a year to ask the question of our Milk Processors. Lets hope too that our dreary milk cartons get an Olympic make over. Go to most dairy nations in the world & you will find bright modern milk cartons with lots of creative zing!

The only evidence I could find that we are aligning UK dairy farmers with top GB athletes was on the Dairy Council website.   Actually its not specifically about the London Olympics but it does feature Beth Tweddle & Liam Phillips both GB Olympic athletes.
This is despite MDC funded research work at Loughborough University regarding the possible benefits of low fat chocolate milk to replenish lost body fluids after exercise.
I was flabbergasted once I read the blog on the  dated the 19th August 2011….. why it might be that the dairy industry isn’t shouting from podium about the “possible” benefits of milk to athletes……the EU regulators again! To quote directly from the blog….
“The study is really good news for the industry particularly, in the run up to the Olympics. What isn’t such good news is that while our counterparts in the States, Canada and Australia can talk about the study to consumers, in Europe we’re prevented from doing so because there is no approved European health claim for milk and rehydration. Whilst some of the British public might read a few lines on the study in their newspaper, as an industry we can’t openly talk about the results in our consumer communications. For now, we are confined to taking the message to health and fitness professionals. “
One only needs to do a quick search of YouTube to quickly find other countries (read other dairy industries & farmers) not only benefitting from the Loughborough University research (funded by you guys) but also openly quoting it.
The research has also been printed in the UK press
A search of “chocolate milk” on the British Journal of Sports Medicine quickly shows the research work that has been completed in the UK
This seems to me to be a farcical situation where farmers will be the losers.
Maybe the controversy created by Jamie Oliver in the USA regarding chocolate milk is part of the issue. However his emphasis was really on low fat & low sugar, fresh food & home cooking. No one would argue with less sugar in flavoured milk.
If you do an internet search sport & for colostrum & whey protein you would find similar research data that would suggest the dairy farmers from the UK should have a whole range of new & exciting dairy products ready for the London Olympics. Grass based block calving farms are the only farmers who could supply high quality colostrum in sufficient quantities to meet the demand from athletes.
Other countries don’t seem to have a problem associating milk with sport & a healthy lifestyle.  
Let’s hope our UK grass based Ice Cream & Cheese makers do well because they have seriously good products that are world class.
I think the London Olympics could be hugely important to British grass based dairy farmers……but what are you going to do about it?
Current UK Pasture Measurements
Extra ordinary growth on the west coast areas that continue to get good rain. Really tough in the Midlands where little rain has fallen. Some farms that have had recent rain now getting bloat. This is a real kick in the guts after struggling for growth earlier.
TheAverage Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)
Herefordshire, 2114, growth 30, demand 26 slow growth & very dry
South West Wales, 2516, gr 75, de 64, 24mm rain still warm & wet in Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire organic, AFC 2150, growth 85, demand 44, never seen such good growth have cut 3rd cut silage for the first time.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Once a Day Milking or Milking only Once a Day?

If we want pasture based dairy farms to stay in front & to maintain a “People Sustainable” status the challenge is to create a work environment that the Y Generation will embrace

Can pasture based dairy farming create an exciting career for the X & Y Generations? I am absolutely convinced that the answer is a definite YES.
I’m regularly told by young people that the work is exciting & the variety of tasks creates fun which they enjoy. Working on a pasture based dairy farm has kept them in farming & agriculture. Milking on high yield farms where cows are fully housed had every chance of sending out of farming & into non agricultural careers.
Most farm employers are either “Baby Boomers” (those people born during WW2 & up until 1961) or “X Generation”, those born between 1961 & 1976. The vast majority of employees are what’s known as the “Y Generation”. The “20- Something’s” were born between late 1970s & up to 1994. The Y Generation are the children of the Baby Boomers. See p.12 of Bernard Salts article Bernard Salt’s Man Drought is an amusing new book now available about the different generations.
The “Y Generation” is the generation whose anthem is “I want it & I want it now”. They are highly educated, generally entrepreneurial & global in their thinking. They usually commit to marriage, mortgages, to children & careers in their late 20s.
So if we want pasture based dairy farms to stay in front & to maintain a “People Sustainable” status the challenge is to create a work environment that the Y Generation will embrace.  
We need to understand as much about the Y Gen as possible then adapt our workplaces to match expectations. So although I think we currently score quite high I think we will have to move fast to be creative with the work week & work responsibilities. Otherwise we will be faced with a high turnover of staff & disgruntled highly capable young people moving on.
The Y Generation want a work environment where there are technical challenges, where responsibilities are offered early, where communication is open & where one can enjoy being part of a team. If they don’t find that with you, they will quickly move on. They “live then work” rather than work to live or “live to work” like their Baby Boomer parents. Expectations are very different so the work environment needs to be very different too. They have a thirst for knowledge, are team players with a strong sense of fairness & ethics. They respond to humour & direct language but easily get bored.
Young men & women who want to be in agriculture want to be part of a vibrant brand. Pasture based dairy farming can be that vibrant brand with an exciting image that fits the "live then work" ethic. Discussion groups for farm staff & herd managers can provide that problem solving, thirst for knowledge desire & the willingness to be part of a team. Are your staff part of a Discussion Group? If not whose fault is that?

Once a Day Milking or Milking Once a Day?
Both OAD milking and Milking OAD might provide employers with viable options to take on the best & brightest young people. OAD milking can potentially be a very profitable dairy farm option for pasture based low input businesses. Milking only OAD is a staff management/rota option to keep people fresh & engaged but enables task variety & responsibility. In modern well designed milking parlours with good stock flow & people friendly features….relatively large numbers of cows can be successfully milked by relatively few people. Young people like to take on that responsibility, be well rewarded for it being done successfully but as they “live then work” need a really good life balance. Staff Milking only OAD is being successfully established on many farms in the Pasture to Profit network of Discussion Groups. Capable young managers prefer to milk only once a day & to be rewarded. Rewards include more family time, more reasonable work hours & more flexible time off provisions. Note I’m not talking of necessarily less work. These young people are on a mission.
I am convinced we can meet the challenge & provide an exciting environment to Y Generation people with talent & enthusiasm.
 We want them & we want them now!
Current UK Pasture Measurements
The country is still split between those who have had good rain & those who have missed out. Now with the 1st week of October targets in mind for AFC before the start of the last grazing rotation. Silage feeding changes the dynamics of grazing completely. Some farms very short of winter supplements.
TheAverage Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)
South Ayrshire, Scotland, Average Farm Cover 2300, Pasture growth 70 Kgs DM/ha/day
Cumbria, 2850, growth 80, farm looks fantastic for August
North Wales, 2125, growth 54, demand 43
Shropshire, 1960, gr 23, need rain asap
Staffordshire, 1800, no growth, feeding 10kg DM silage + corn
Staffordshire, 1885, gr 11 very dry, feeding silage, corn & brewers grain
Oxford 2000, growth 6 cows only getting 5kg grass/day since mid June
Gloucestershire, 1850, growth 20 VV Dry, feeding silage only 4kgs grass/day
Somerset organic, 2490, growth 47, Best August ever!
South Wales, 2469, gr 76, demand 67 Rain 30mm, trying to control quality
East Sussex, 2050, growth 30 started calving had to cut short holidays
Cornwall, 2550, gr 58, going into 3400, record production!
Rotorua NZ, AFC 1947, growth 17 demand 45 feeding lots pke to hold round 80% calved after 6 weeks

Friday, 12 August 2011

You Too!...... Should Be a Nuffield Scholar

How “People Sustainable is your Farm Business”?

One very important component of a Sustainable pasture based dairy farm is how sustainable is it for the people within the farm business? I want to look at a number of different aspects of this question related to people sustainability within a dairy farm business & how you might manage this better in your business.
The first aspect I want to consider is the ongoing self education & training required by the owners & key players of the business. Most full time farmers have limited opportunities for organised or formal tertiary training, although there are some courses out there that are very useful. Most of the adult learning & business training that happens on farms has to be “self directed learning”. You organise it. You manage it yourself. This shouldn’t come as a surprise nor should it concern anyone within the “Pasture to Profit” network of pasture based dairy farmers in the UK & France. After all the farm Discussion Groups are self organised to meet self directed learning needs.
However the groups effective as they are (if they are well run using well trained professional facilitators….I’m horrified to hear that some groups that have tried going it alone are crashing), it’s only the beginning of what needs to be ongoing self learning. If you don’t & if not enough British & French farmers get off the farm & go to see what is happening overseas we will rapidly get isolated & left behind.
Have you considered a Nuffield Scholarship?
Within the Pasture to Profit network there are about 30 current or recent Nuffields (including several from NZ & Australia). Nuffield scholarships provide a fantastic opportunity to “get away” from the farm, to travel & to study an area of personal interest. Nuffield is open for business as applications for 2012 close on the 15th November 2011. Nuffield needs farmers with passion & drive, both men & women (Fiona Hillman was a very successful Nuffield from the Wyegraze DG) Nuffield is also available in France. Apply now online......
Most Nuffield Scholars describe it as a life changing experience. Often the farm business changes significantly & people look at new opportunities. When you get away you have a unique opportunity to look back at your business like you’ve never done before.
One very important aspect of doing a Nuffield is the life long networking with passionate effective farmers from all round the world. We are very fortunate to have so many recent Nuffields in our network. Here is an opportunity to talk to them about Nuffield either on the phone or Facebook. There are 25 Nuffields in the online Facebook group.
Recent Nuffield Scholars
Tim Downes, Shropshire
Tim Wall, Devon.
Roly Tavernor, Shropshire
Will Edwards, Monmouthshire
Fiona Hillman, Monmouthshire,
Robert Richmond, Gloucestershire (currently travelling in Australia)
This week I met John Stones up in North Wales. I explained how I viewed the importance of Nuffield to the pasture based dairy farmers. Firstly it’s really important to the ongoing development of our best people. Secondly, we as a group have virtually no research being conducted in the UK for our sector. The returning Nuffield scholars bring back the latest information & research implications & how the new information might be applied on farm here. Thirdly, they challenge the Discussion Groups thinking with the new ideas. Lastly it extends & enhances our network worldwide.
Another travel scholarship available to UK farmers is the Churchill Travel Fellowships.  
These Fellowships have no upper age limit but are only available for 4-8 weeks of travelling study. Applications for 2012 close on the 4th October 2011.
Many county shows also offer travel awards mainly for young farmers & ofcourse YFC encourage overseas travel & exchange.
All good Discussion Groups in the UK need to travel overseas much more than in the past & to many more countries.
You have to be in to win. Talk to recent scholars about their experiences & we’ll back you. I will give you as much help as you need & plenty of needle to apply too.
Pasture Growth Update.
Current Pasture Covers & Growth Rates this week.
South Ayrshire, Scotland, AFC 2300kgs DM/ha, Pasture Growth 53kgsDM/ha/day
Dumfries, Scotland, 2190, growth 90, demand 37.
North Wales, 2178, growth 58, demand 56 excellent rain (Tom got soaked this week)
Hereford organic, 2154, gr34, de38, 2nd week of slow growth
Gloucestershire, 2100, gr 38, cover now 200kgs behind budget.
Oxfordshire, 2000, gr 25, had 25mm rain but growth slow to respond
Dorset Organic, 2605, gr 54, fields vary from 24 to 100kgs growth
Dorset, 2455, gr 64, demand 40, clover VG this year
East Sussex, 2010, gr 20, grazing 4500kgs stored grass with dries "Life is Good"...obviously watching cricket this week!
Pembrokeshire, SW Wales, 2344, gr 72, de 63 good rain expect good result Saturday at Cardiff
South Kilkenny, Ireland, AFC 2146, growth 54, demand 51, 25 day rotation

Rhys Williams, North Wales a Nuffield last year with visiting group

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Caring Pasture Based Dairy Farmers Encourage Biodiversity

Biodiversity on pasture based dairy farms is seriously important. If dairyfarmers are seen by the public to be caring for the environment & making a special effort to protect the biodiversity, this too is a major PR with our consumers. There are very strong arguments for farmers to protect biodiversity as well as enjoying it for its own sake. The farms are both our homes & our work places.

Ben & Jerry the ice cream makers have established the “Caring Dairy” Program with Sustainable Indicators. Most pasture based dairyfarmers would embrace this program & agree fully with the targets.
Sustainability Indicators: measuring sustainability performance
“Caring Dairy” has developed 11 sustainability indicators. For each indicator, measurement points or parameters have been defined that enable actual performance measurement. Each Caring Dairy farmer determines the focus of his improvement plan based on the farm situation – such as soil type, land division situation, farm strategy – and personal priorities.  
Agriculture has shaped most ecosystems in the world, and biodiversity can be improved or reduced by agricultural practices. Some biodiversity is highly beneficial for agriculture. Sustainable practices can improve biodiversity - by `greening the edges' of the field.
Examples of parameters:
1) Level of biodiversity on site: number of species (e.g., birds, butterflies) and varieties (e.g. grass); farm landscape; habitat for natural predator systems (e.g., hedgerows, ponds, non-cropped areas)
2) Level of biodiversity off-site: cross-boundary effects.
Apart from its intrinsic value, biodiversity has a function in a number of ecological processes highly relevant for food production. These `life support functions' of biodiversity include the soil nutrient cycles & regulation of pests by means of biological control. Agrotechnology has broadly increased the independence of these functions at the cost of high inputs of fossil fuel, artificial fertilisers and pesticides. The concept of `sustainable' agriculture aims to re-establish equilibrium: life support functions and technology should be farm attributes of equal importance. Here, the integration of farming and nature comes into play.
Australian studies in Gippsland, Victoria have shown that: - Sheltered pastures lose 12 mm of water less than open pastures during the spring growing season. Sheltered areas have increases up to 17% (estimated) in dairy milk production and 20% (estimated) in average annual pasture growth for meat producers.
As well as having a high-tech context, pasture based dairy farming needs to embrace a keen understanding and use of ecological patterns and processes and a tolerant attitude towards nature elements on the farm: managing biodiversity is the starting point for ecologising agriculture. The dairy farm at Wageningen University in The Netherlands has been a leader in this field of dairying being a holistic approach.
Sustainable dairy farming is protecting and improving the natural environment, animal welfare, and conditions of the local communities, while at the same time being productive and efficient.
• Producing milk with a high nutritional quality to meet existing and future needs, while keeping resource inputs as low as possible.
• Ensuring that any adverse effects on soil fertility, water and air quality, landscape and
biodiversity from dairy farming activities are minimised and positive contributions are made
where possible.
• Optimising the use of renewable resources while minimising the use of non-renewable
• Sustainable dairy farming should enable local communities to protect and improve
their well-being and environments.
• Sustainable dairy farming should ensure an optimal well-being of the animals (cows).
Profitable pasture based dairyfarmers need to show the world that they care for their environment & that they want to encourage biodiversity.
Unprofitable dairyfarmers are not in that position. Quote:- "If you are in the Red its very hard to be Green"
Current UK Pasture Measurements
Pasture growth still very variable dependant on rain. You have either had it or still waiting for it!
TheAverage Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)
Scotland, South Ayrshire, Average Farm Cover 2420, Pasture growth rates this week 91kgsDM/ha/day
North Wales, 2220, gr 70.
North Wales, 2070, gr 70, just enough rain at right time
Cheshire org, 2000, gr 25, 42 day rotation, no rain, feeding silage & cake
Staffordshire, 2220, gr 10
Staffordshire, 2100, gr25 burning up fast need lots of rain
East Staffordshire, 2000, zero growth NO RAIN
Shropshire, AFC 1947, growth 15
Derbyshire, 2157, gr16 feeding cake & wholecrop, 5mm rain
Nottingham, 1800, zero growth, demand 69, going backwards soils very dry
Herefordshire org, 2000, gr 20 very dry missing rain
Herefordshire org, 2213, gr 37 demand 33, getting dry
Herefordshire org, 2090, gr39 demand 40
Gloucestershire, gr 42 down 25kgs on week very dry until 16mm rain
Oxfordshire, 2100, gr 29, de 25 15mm rain expecting lift in growth
Somerset org, 2470, growth 51 great growth plenty of rain
Dorset, 2000, gr 30, plenty of rain yesterday
SW Wales, 2170, growth 75
East Sussex, 2100, gr 30, cows dry, 25mm rain yesterday
Cornwall, 2610, gr58, taking silage out to lower AFC 2450
Northern Germany organic, AFC 2130, growth 49, 23 day rotation Wet & Warm!