Monday, 22 August 2011

Once a Day Milking or Milking only Once a Day?

If we want pasture based dairy farms to stay in front & to maintain a “People Sustainable” status the challenge is to create a work environment that the Y Generation will embrace

Can pasture based dairy farming create an exciting career for the X & Y Generations? I am absolutely convinced that the answer is a definite YES.
I’m regularly told by young people that the work is exciting & the variety of tasks creates fun which they enjoy. Working on a pasture based dairy farm has kept them in farming & agriculture. Milking on high yield farms where cows are fully housed had every chance of sending out of farming & into non agricultural careers.
Most farm employers are either “Baby Boomers” (those people born during WW2 & up until 1961) or “X Generation”, those born between 1961 & 1976. The vast majority of employees are what’s known as the “Y Generation”. The “20- Something’s” were born between late 1970s & up to 1994. The Y Generation are the children of the Baby Boomers. See p.12 of Bernard Salts article Bernard Salt’s Man Drought is an amusing new book now available about the different generations.
The “Y Generation” is the generation whose anthem is “I want it & I want it now”. They are highly educated, generally entrepreneurial & global in their thinking. They usually commit to marriage, mortgages, to children & careers in their late 20s.
So if we want pasture based dairy farms to stay in front & to maintain a “People Sustainable” status the challenge is to create a work environment that the Y Generation will embrace.  
We need to understand as much about the Y Gen as possible then adapt our workplaces to match expectations. So although I think we currently score quite high I think we will have to move fast to be creative with the work week & work responsibilities. Otherwise we will be faced with a high turnover of staff & disgruntled highly capable young people moving on.
The Y Generation want a work environment where there are technical challenges, where responsibilities are offered early, where communication is open & where one can enjoy being part of a team. If they don’t find that with you, they will quickly move on. They “live then work” rather than work to live or “live to work” like their Baby Boomer parents. Expectations are very different so the work environment needs to be very different too. They have a thirst for knowledge, are team players with a strong sense of fairness & ethics. They respond to humour & direct language but easily get bored.
Young men & women who want to be in agriculture want to be part of a vibrant brand. Pasture based dairy farming can be that vibrant brand with an exciting image that fits the "live then work" ethic. Discussion groups for farm staff & herd managers can provide that problem solving, thirst for knowledge desire & the willingness to be part of a team. Are your staff part of a Discussion Group? If not whose fault is that?

Once a Day Milking or Milking Once a Day?
Both OAD milking and Milking OAD might provide employers with viable options to take on the best & brightest young people. OAD milking can potentially be a very profitable dairy farm option for pasture based low input businesses. Milking only OAD is a staff management/rota option to keep people fresh & engaged but enables task variety & responsibility. In modern well designed milking parlours with good stock flow & people friendly features….relatively large numbers of cows can be successfully milked by relatively few people. Young people like to take on that responsibility, be well rewarded for it being done successfully but as they “live then work” need a really good life balance. Staff Milking only OAD is being successfully established on many farms in the Pasture to Profit network of Discussion Groups. Capable young managers prefer to milk only once a day & to be rewarded. Rewards include more family time, more reasonable work hours & more flexible time off provisions. Note I’m not talking of necessarily less work. These young people are on a mission.
I am convinced we can meet the challenge & provide an exciting environment to Y Generation people with talent & enthusiasm.
 We want them & we want them now!
Current UK Pasture Measurements
The country is still split between those who have had good rain & those who have missed out. Now with the 1st week of October targets in mind for AFC before the start of the last grazing rotation. Silage feeding changes the dynamics of grazing completely. Some farms very short of winter supplements.
TheAverage Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)
South Ayrshire, Scotland, Average Farm Cover 2300, Pasture growth 70 Kgs DM/ha/day
Cumbria, 2850, growth 80, farm looks fantastic for August
North Wales, 2125, growth 54, demand 43
Shropshire, 1960, gr 23, need rain asap
Staffordshire, 1800, no growth, feeding 10kg DM silage + corn
Staffordshire, 1885, gr 11 very dry, feeding silage, corn & brewers grain
Oxford 2000, growth 6 cows only getting 5kg grass/day since mid June
Gloucestershire, 1850, growth 20 VV Dry, feeding silage only 4kgs grass/day
Somerset organic, 2490, growth 47, Best August ever!
South Wales, 2469, gr 76, demand 67 Rain 30mm, trying to control quality
East Sussex, 2050, growth 30 started calving had to cut short holidays
Cornwall, 2550, gr 58, going into 3400, record production!
Rotorua NZ, AFC 1947, growth 17 demand 45 feeding lots pke to hold round 80% calved after 6 weeks

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