Tuesday, 30 April 2019
Farmer William Baillie shares his experience of the dairy strategic farm programme
Host farm: Hill of Covington, Lanarkshire
Project dates: 2018-2021
How are you enjoying life as an AHDB strategic farmer?
So far it’s going pretty well. We’re looking to make more changes on farm and the input we’ve had from other farmers is really valuable. We’ve had some really open conversation with the farmers who’ve come along so far, you get great ideas and information which is really useful.
What are you hoping the project will help you change on farm?
Ultimately we want to improve the profitability and efficiency of the business, and initially we’re hoping to do that through reviewing the nutrition and genetics. However, I’m keen to hear other people’s ideas of areas we should look at which will help us boost our bottom line.
You’ve started by looking at your nutrition, what are you trying to achieve by making changes here?
We’re looking to increase yields, as well as improve cow health and fertility, and nutrition plays a key role in that. I would never look to increase yield at all costs, while you want to have a high feed intake which converts to high yields, you won’t achieve that if you neglect other areas like health.
What other areas are you hoping to focus on?
We’re going to be looking much more closely at genomics. We’ve recently tested all the young stock under ten months and we’ll use the results to guide our breeding decisions. It’ll be really interesting to compare the genomic results to the predictions we’ve always used in the past as these should be much more accurate meaning we’ll be able to make better decisions about which animals we breed from.
Have you got any advice for any future AHDB strategic dairy farmers?
I would say that anyone who is thinking about it should give it a go. It’s a great opportunity to make use of the wealth of knowledge that is out there. It allows you get experts out onto your own farm and try new things which are suitable for your individual situation. Going to meeting is always useful, but I think you get even more out of being a host.
What do you see as the main opportunities and challenges facing the dairy industry?
I think there are a lot of opportunities out there. I’m not sure about Brexit, some people see it as an opportunity while others see it as a threat. For me the real opportunity lies in people becoming more aware of the health benefits of dairy products, which I think is happening already. Of course veganism is often seen as a challenge but I think we should focus more on getting the good messages out about dairy.
This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2019 edition of All About Scotland.