Blog: Meet Dairy Sector Council member Liz Haines

Tuesday, 11 October 2022

Liz Haines farms in Staffordshire and was an AHDB Dairy Board Member at before becoming a member of the new Dairy Sector Council. In this blog, she tells us a little bit more about her own set up and why she first decided to to join the Board.

I am a tenant farmer in Staffordshire. I farm in a joint venture with my husband and two business partners, we milk around 400 crossbred cows in a split block calving pattern and with a focus on producing milk from grazed grass. We took tenancy of the farm just over two years ago. Since then we have installed a new 40:80 New Zealand style milking parlour, plus sleeper tracks, electric fencing and a water system. Before this, I spent six years in a contract farming arrangement in Shropshire. I am Treasurer of a grazing discussion group and write a regular Opinion column for Farmers’ Weekly.

I am not from a farming background. My grandfather was a dairy farmer, but I had no involvement with the farm growing up, and studied English literature at University. My plan was always to work in book publishing, which I did for a few years before my husband (who was a herd manager at that point) convinced me that dairy farming would provide a better family lifestyle. I moved to Dorset and enrolled in an evening course in Farm Records and Accounts at Kingston Maurward Agricultural College, learning to milk and rear calves at the weekends.

We invested our savings in dairy heifer calves which we paid to rear at the farm where my husband worked. When they calved, we were paid a ‘lease fee’ by the business. We later sold them as cows, which gave us some capital to invest when we started Contract Farming.

I decided to apply to be a Board Member at AHDB (as we were previously known) after being a host farm for the Calf to Calving programme. This involved hosting quarterly meetings on our farm where we tracked a group of dairy heifer calves through to calving and compared KPIs with other host farms nationally and the farmers who attended the meetings. The lessons about colostrum management, feeding, weaning and more are still the backbone of our calf rearing protocols today. I had always found AHDB materials and events useful for our business and staff training, and wanted to be more involved. I am passionate about representing New Entrants to farming, younger people in business and women.

Just as I was getting into my stride at AHDB the pandemic struck, and all our meetings were moved online. However, I’m proud of what was achieved in that time, with AHDB Dairy working together with other organisations to put together the Milk Your Moments campaign at very short notice and provide evidence to Government about the situation facing farmers so they could provide targeted support.

More recently we had the Shape the Future vote which has been hugely important in helping us to set the right strategy going forwards, ensuring we are putting levy payers at the heart of everything we do and providing services that make a tangible difference in their businesses. The Sector Council are now working hard to create a new strategy that reflects what levy payers told us they wanted in the vote, including a strong focus on upholding the reputation of the dairy industry.

It has been great to have a more normal year with on farm meetings and events. In the last couple of months I have been to AHDB events about improving soil, optimum weaning of calves, met the Strategic Dairy Farmers on their study tour, and chatted to levy payers at the Down to Earth regenerative farming event. As always, I’m amazed at the breadth of what AHDB is involved in.

Meet the dairy sector council