Ambitious young farmer achieves dairy herd manager role

Owen on his graduation day

Owen Davies on his graduation day

Ambitious young farmer Owen Davies started his career in Australia after completing his Foundation Degree at Reaseheath.

This international job opportunity came about for Owen whilst he was still a student after impressing our then farm manager Mark Yearsley. Mark, who has since moved to a senior dairy operations management post in Australia, approached Owen when looking for an ambitious dairy herd manager – and he jumped at the chance.

Owen, 23, is now working at an impressive 10,000 acre dairy farm two hours drive north of Melbourne which currently has 2,000 high yielding cows but plans to expand to 4,000 cows in the not too distant future. He is spending his first year learning all the aspects of the business, including the care and commercial output of the dairy herd, the breeding  and production of youngstock.

Coming to college with no previous farming background, Owen initially completed his Level 3 Diploma in agriculture with us, which included a full middle year work placement at a dairy unit. He then progressed on to his Foundation Degree in Agriculture, excelling in all areas, Owen achieved an overall distinction.

He says: “I wouldn’t have got this amazing opportunity without being an agriculture student at Reaseheath. Coming to college has been the major factor in getting me to where I am now and where I’m likely to be in the future.”

Reaseheath agriculture graduates launch calf rearing business

Chris Webb and Larry Anscombe with their automatic calf feeder

Chris Webb and Larry Anscombe with their automatic calf feeder

Reaseheath agricultural graduates Chris Webb and Larry Anscombe have joined forces to form a thriving calf rearing business. Along with their friend Chris Roberts, the entrepreneurial pair launched their calf unit while they were first year degree students and continued to expand it alongside their studies. They have grown quickly from an initial intake of 30 calves to rearing 130 calves on a farm at Welsh Frankton, Shropshire, and, after just a year and a half, are taking over the tenancy on a second larger unit nearby.

The core of the business is raising beef-cross calves on milk and concentrate. The animals are purchased from farms across Shropshire and Cheshire at two to three weeks of age for resale as weanlings at around three months. On the same system, dairy heifer calves are contract-reared for local dairy farmers. Already the business is attracting return custom, with the partners attributing their success to their niche specialism, to making the most of technology and to their high standards of welfare.

The calves are machine-fed in groups of 25 to 30, with electronic identification collars to allow individual monitoring, ration-control and progressive weaning to minimise stress and post-weaning check. From arrival, calves have ad lib starter, straw and water, and are fed 1kg of CMR daily. This drives early growth during the period of maximum feed efficiency and also primes their metabolism for high starter intakes as they progress onto solid feed.

Larry Anscombe tops up calf pellets

Larry Anscombe tops up calf pellets

By combining traditional good stockmanship with feeder automation and technology for monitoring health and performance, their system is able to deliver healthy calves with excellent growth rates, despite a relatively low workload. Careful monitoring of live weight gain also allows changes and protocols to be continuously tuned, compared and assessed.

Chris Webb came to Reaseheath as a mature student, having previously run technology companies following a maths degree at the University of Cambridge in the 1990s. He doesn’t have a farming background, so studying for a Foundation Degree in Agriculture with Dairy Herd Management helped him build the skills and knowledge to enable him to break into a new industry.

Larry, who comes from a farming family, studied for his Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture at Walford College, Shropshire, completing this as student of the year. He then progressed on to a Foundation Degree in Agriculture at Reaseheath to enable him to aim higher in his chosen career.

Chris Roberts graduated from Harper Adams in 2007 and now works as a partner in his family dairy farm. He was instrumental in a successful conversion to robot-milking in 2011 and subsequent expansion of the herd, so he is no stranger to the benefits technology can bring to a farming business.

Both Reaseheath graduates credit the success of their partnership with the inspired teaching and balance of academic and practical learning which they received while undergraduates.

Chris Webb said: “Reaseheath provided a great learning experience which included a comprehensive, well-taught course which was directly relevant to real-life farming. I enjoyed studying with a friendly, tight-knit group from a mix of backgrounds. The specialist dairy side of the course is unique in the UK as it’s condensed into studying for two days a week, enabling many of us to hold down farming jobs at the same time. Our course manager, Dr Jane Richardson, inspired and encouraged us to pursue our start-up business.”

Larry, who is a member of Whitchurch Young Farmers Club, added: “Rearing calves to three months of age can be a hassle for some farmers as it is an additional task alongside running the mature animals. We have chosen to concentrate on this area and, so far, it has proved very successful.

“Just because we use modern technology doesn’t make us less of a stockman. It allows us to focus more on the health of the calves while having a more flexible lifestyle.”

For further details on buying or selling calves, or for a chat about this start-up business, contact Chris Webb

Rising star Robert addresses the Oxford Farming Conference

Ambitious young farmer Robert Yardley addressed delegates and had the opportunity to meet Princess Anne at this year’s Oxford Farming Conference (OFC).

Robert, 29, a current Reaseheath Foundation Degree in Agriculture undergraduate, took to the main stage of the prestigious conference to speak of his experiences with the Young DLG – the youth network of the German Agricultural Society.

Robert, who attended the OFC last year as Reaseheath’s representative, was one of three scholar delegates to be awarded an OFC travel scholarship to attend the Young DLG Conference at Agritechnica, Germany, last November. The exchange is part of a collaboration between the OFC and the Young DLG and aims to give young people involved in British and German agriculture a networking and learning opportunity at leading agricultural events.

Robert Yardley meets Princess Anne at the Oxford Farming Conference

Robert Yardley meets Princess Anne at the Oxford Farming Conference

Robert, who is studying at Reaseheath part-time alongside his job as an arable operator, gave a presentation at the Young DLG conference about farming in the UK and more specifically in Cheshire. He was also able to tour Agritechnica, which is a leading international exhibition of agricultural machinery and equipment, go on farm tours organised by the Young DLG and enjoy interacting with German young farmers.

Describing the experience as ‘a great opportunity which will help further my future career’, Robert told the OFC how he had been able to explore farming practices which met current challenges and had been impressed with the way some businesses were structured to make the most of the marketplace.

He told delegates: “I was delighted to attend Agritechnica and to be representing the OFC at such a globally important event.”

Outside the conference, Robert paid tribute to the support he has received from Reaseheath Agriculture and in particular from course manager Dr Jane Richardson, who put him forward to attend the OFC in 2015. Reaseheath’s delegate for 2016 was Chris Kogel, who is also studying for a Foundation Degree in Agriculture but specialising in Dairy Herd Management.

The three day conference had the theme ‘Bold Agriculture’ and featured Defra Secretary Liz Truss and EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan among other key speakers.

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Since attending the Young DLG conference, Robert has taking every opportunity to learn more about agriculture in other EU countries and is particularly interested in how businesses manage volatile markets.

He is a member of the NFU’s North West Crops Board and as a result was invited by leading agricultural company Syngenta to travel to the Ukraine in December to share his experience of the UK industry with farmers there. Accompanying NW Crop’s Board chairman Olly Harrison, he spent a week building relationships with farmers who are interested in entering into a new grain market strategy with Syngenta.

Robert made a presentation to around 50 farmers at a finance forum on how the grain market works in the UK. He also toured individual farms meeting owners and managers, which allowed him to better understand the Ukraine perspective of grain marketing. The visit was so successful that Syngenta is likely to repeat it early this year.

Robert re-entered farming in his early 20s after experiencing several other industries. He gained valuable experience as a harvesting contractor in Australia and New Zealand before taking his current job on an arable farm in Widnes and aims to be a farm manager.