Agricultural professions: from dairy herd manager to joint venture


Matt Hill, 33, went from unit manager at a dairy farm to member of a joint venture milking 280 cows on a 255ha estate in Gloucestershire.

Coming from a non-farm background, Matt grew up next to a dairy farm and started helping with the cows as a teenager.

Deciding to learn a trade, he studied cabinetmaking and earned an agriculture degree at Plumpton College, Sussex.

See also: Agricultural Careers: Working as a Sprayer Operator

He then took the time to travel, spending a year in the United States on a Worshipful Company of Farmers scholarship, several months in Australia driving big kits and working on a cattle ranch, and two years as a manager. herd in New Zealand.

Back in the UK, Matt spent a few years as a unit manager in East Sussex, converting an arable estate into a dairy and starting the herd from scratch.

In December 2021, he saw his current role advertised as a 10-year contract farming deal opportunity and applied, before starting in March.

The estate provides land, infrastructure and cows, while he provides labor and experience. Matt also rents another 60 acre farm for his own sheep.

Matt has monthly meetings with the landowner and estate manager and sends in regular reports.

His time is spent on planning, improving infrastructure, managing two full-time employees and relief workers, and milking if necessary.

Herd Manager Job Profile

What the work ?

Daily management of the dairy herd and management and animation of a small team.

This involves an understanding of and interest in computer programs related to milk recording, grass growth, fertility and disease.

You must have a detailed working understanding of cattle husbandry, with skills in hoof trimming and artificial insemination.

Teamwork is essential and an interest in staff development is encouraged.

This requires maintaining the standards necessary to meet the stipulations of dairy contracts, farm insurance and environmental regulations.

What qualifications/experience are needed?

A qualification from an agricultural college will be beneficial.

But a number of years of hands-on experience with cows is required and demonstrable experience of having sole responsibility for cow-related processes on the farm.

What are the benefits of this job?

Working with animals, having a major influence on the success of a business, living and working in some of the most beautiful parts of the country, and job-specific benefits such as lodging, vehicle, and membership in an organization.

What would be a typical salary?

£30,000 to £45,000, depending on responsibilities or other benefits such as accommodation, vehicle, performance bonus or potential profit sharing options.

How can you progress from this role?

Progression could lead to shared breeding arrangements, growth of an existing business (including diversification), new roles with more responsibilities in larger herds or herds with different systems.

Additional training is very specific to the role or opportunity, but may include business skills, budget responsibility, livestock handling, personnel management, leadership skills, media training, or related technical skills grazing, health or livestock management.

How can employers best manage and retain staff for this role?

You must learn what motivates the character in the role (eg money, free time, development, culture) and create opportunities.

Tell them where they are now and where they want to be. Schedule time for performance conversations.

Ensure a culture of openness, transparency and autonomy. Create and nurture a positive brand for the company, encouraging socializing and discouraging negativity.

Employers must be seen to be doing their fair share of menial tasks.

Source: Izak Van Heerden and Steve West, AHDB Senior Knowledge Exchange Officers

Staff management and development

The Tesco Future Farming Foundation and the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers’ Entrepreneurs in Dairying course have helped a lot, and Matt said he would like to learn more about managing people and attend more of the events. industry.

“There is a lot of variety in the role and the pressure to solve problems and have good attention to detail, negotiate prices, do accounts and check machines and inventory,” he said. he declares.

“I thought I would have gone to college after college, but instead I went the route of travel and experience.

“Learn as much as you can from those willing to teach you – it’s mostly about how you deal with people.”

Izak Van Heerden, AHDB Senior Knowledge Exchange Manager, said:

“Over the past 10 years, the profession of herd leader has developed enormously. Yes, you still need good herding skills, but there are so many areas for people with a wide range of interests.

“Whether you’re into technology and love data or you’re a people person and want to become a good manager and leader, the role of herd manager will challenge and develop a variety of skills.

“With the prospects of joint ventures becoming more common, there are incredible opportunities for people who want to advance.”


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