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Published on 4th October, 2018

Speaking at the Dairy Show, Navaratnam Partheeban, specialist dairy vet at the Royal Agricultural University, said one of the biggest factors in remaining productive on any dairy farm is its staff. “Development for workers is really important, so they can progress in the jobs they do and as individuals – they feel they are giving more input into a farm.” Providing staff with career progression opportunities, rewards and recognition, communication and respect – as well as fair pay – are key to running a successful and productive business, he said.

Recruitment and retention were at the centre of the UK’s largest dairy show as it drew in the crowds at the Bath & West showground on 3 October. “It’s an extremely important year for dairy farmers and the wider industry, as it’s the final year before Brexit,” said Alan Lyons, head of shows. “It’s been really encouraging to see such a great turnout and such huge support within the sector. Now it’s vital that we look to the future and focus on the keystones of the industry: Its people.”

According to Paul Harris at Real Success, most farmers find recruiting and retaining staff the biggest challenge. He advised farmers to work on their interviewing skills, set up an online presence and to profile employees to know how best to communicate with them. “The key to really good team dynamics is having people that are aligned to you.”

But it’s also important that producers look at options to smooth price volatility – which could become even greater after Brexit. Farmers Guardian’s Speakers Corner saw industry leaders join voices to promote mandatory contract declarations, futures and insurance.

“There are two things we have no control over: The weather and – at this moment in time -, the milk price,” said Michael Oakes, NFU dairy board chairman. By getting the Government to regulate contracts, farmers could share some of the pressures of price changes. “We have to give our processors what they want but in exchange for more stability. The market will still be volatile but if we can sort out the contract issue and have better market information we can take informed decisions about how we manage our businesses and invest.”

A dairy futures market could help producers secure a stable margin, but wouldn’t help those looking to chase the highest price, explained Patty Clayton, senior analyst at AHDB.

Insurance is another way to smooth price volatility. Producers can guarantee between 50% and 90% of the current milk index price – with premiums decreasing the less they insure for, explained Richard Counsell at Stable insurance platform. They then get a pay out if the milk price drops below their insurance threshold. “It is simple and ultimately, low-risk.”

Despite the uncertainties ahead, what really shone through at the Show was the positivity of producers and businesses, with so many developing and growing apace, said David Cotton, Dairy Show chairman. “There was a good mix of young and experienced farmers at the Show and they are pretty optimistic about the future. Everyone wants a successful industry.”


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