My first week

On August 2nd I officially began my ruminant placement at ForFarmers. It was a bright Monday morning and I headed to the Portbury office to meet my mentor Cara Green. I received a very warm welcome and an introduction to the company.

The following day I headed to Exeter, where I got to meet my other marketing colleague Katie. She kindly gave me an insight into the social media platforms that ForFarmers use to interact with their target audience. This is an area that I hope to get involved with during my placement year. I was also lucky to get a tour around the new state of the art mill by the mill manager, Nick Parsons. It was really interesting to see the inner workings of the mill and the new mixer being installed.

Afbeelding: Josie - Aug Exeter 720

During my first week I also travelled to South Wales for the Welsh Sales Team's winter dairy briefing. This enabled me to meet the whole team and we got to discuss the winter rations and how the silage and maize cuts from this summer would alter the ration formulations in order to achieve a sustainable energy balance.

On the Thursday, Eliza and I attended the Honiton Agricultural Show. Eliza is the new Youngstock Technician and it was good to get advice and support from someone who has also just joined the company. Although it rained heavily at the show, we didn’t let this dampen our mood and were able to talk to a range of agricultural companies and customers.

I also met up with Account Manager, Sam Wall who covers farms in North East Somerset. He allowed me to shadow a visit on a beef farm where we discussed the ration with the farmer and took a sample of their barley. We also looked around a small-scale dairy farm so I could compare how they operate compared to a larger scale dairy farm.

Dairy herd analysis

I was introduced to the Interherd programme by Alison Ewing and was lucky enough to meet her out on farm in Derbyshire, where we visited a 200-head Holstein dairy herd.

Alison took me through step by step the checks she would complete during a monthly visit. Firstly we took samples of their maize, wholecrop and silage so it could be sent off for testing, which allows Alison to get a break down of the starch, protein and fat percentages for each forage. The next step was to get an overview of the milking herd. We walked the cows and body condition scored a good handful in order to get an average BCS of the whole herd. We also carried out smoke bomb test in the cubicle sheds to check for clean air and enough circulation. This was a great day because I got a real insight into how Account Managers carry out their farm visits and support customers.


An insight into blends

Furthermore, during the month I got to visit one of the blend sites down at the Avonmouth docks where I was shown around by Hannah Brown who is a Blend Specialist. Hannah took me through the stages of formulating a blend and the types of compound feeds which are added to make up a blend. I was able to see the raw materials such a soya in a powdered form before it is added into the blend itself. It was a really interesting and insightful day in the composition of blends.

The final week of August

August has flown by and what a busy month I have had. My last week has been one of the most insightful to date. On Tuesday 24th of August I set off bright and early from Bristol to meet Michelle Cross, a Forage Specialist. Whitland Mart is a popular livestock market in South Wales which is where I met Michelle. I was able to meet a few local farmers and have some stimulating conversations with them. Michelle talked me through additives and the importance of them. A few additive orders came in so we completed a few farm visits and drop a couple of deliveries.

One of the main visits during the day, was looking at the development of the maize trail plots in Haverfordwest. We talked through the importance of soil nutrition in relation to photosynthesis enabling the maize seeds to germinate and therefore stimulate growth.


Out on farm with Youngstock Specialist, Peter Whittal-Williams

The next two days in South Wales I spent with Peter Whittal-Williams who is one of the Youngstock specialists at ForFarmers. Both days were invaluable and I learnt so much from my time spent with Peter.  I gained knowledge about the five main milk powders ForFarmers supply and the key benefits of each one.

The first farm visit on Wednesday was successful as we sold three pallets of VITAMILK Omega Gold. This is a whey based milk powder which has 23% protein and 17% fat. We then headed to Sion Thomas’ dairy farm who runs a 600 dairy herd of Shorthorns through a 70 point rotary parlour. During this visit we discussed VITAMILK Premium, this is a skim based milk powder which has a composition of 24% protein and 16% fat. Skim based milk powders keep the calf fuller for longer as they take up to 12 hours to be digested, whereas whey based powders can be digested by the calf within two hours of being fed. Whey based powders typically have to be fed multiple times due to being rapidly digestible. This can lead to higher concentrate intakes from a younger age.

The last visit of the day was at Geraint and Richard Davies’ farm. These customers put 650 Holstein cows through the parlour and these are split into high and low yielders which enables them to run their farm efficiently and produce 10,500 litres on average. It was an insightful visit and an opportunity to see how the animals were perfoming on various ForFarmers products.

Afbeelding: Josie - Aug with PWW

Thursday was my last day in South Wales. Peter and I ventured over to Camarthen where we carried out the majority of farm visits for the day. 

We then headed to Andrew Richards’ farm, which is an all year round calving herd with twice a day milking. Recently they have just erected a new calf housing unit on the farm. They installed two computerised feeders and feed their calves VITAMILK Premium. The new unit has enhanced their calf growth rates and reduced the number of calves falling sick from pneumonia. The farm also utilise a wide range of ForFarmers products including calf pellets, dry cow rolls and VITA Heifer 18.

The last visit of the day was to Noel Richards who runs a dairy cow herd over three sites. They rear all their heifer replacements and feed their calves VITAMILK Classic which is another one of ForFarmers whey based milk powders. Within conversation we discussed the importance of colostrum quantity and quality when rearing calves. The farm also uses a ForFarmers rearing cake and a transition cow diet.

It's been a jam packed first month and I look foward to seeing what September will bring.

Afbeelding: Josie signature 2