Fields of various forage

March 2021

It’s been 6 months since I joined ForFarmers and I’m officially over half way through my placement year. From living in Bristol to moving home and working alongside a pandemic, it has been an interesting and productive time. In this month’s blog I reflect on some of the highlights and key learnings.

Working from home

At the beginning of my placement I was based at Portbury near Bristol, however due to the pandemic offices across the nation were closed. I therefore decided to move back home to Warwickshire where I could continue to work. I was fortunate that the IT department had set me up with a laptop and phone so working remotely was a smooth transition.

As ForFarmers operates in an essential industry, the mills continued to operate and with less people on site it helped protect the key workers.

From October to now I have worked from home which has been a learning experience that a lot of people can relate to. There are lots of positives, however with the restrictions now slowly lifting, I am really looking forward to going back into the office and meeting new people.

Developing my skills

Afbeelding: Philippa out on farm - March 2021

Coronavirus has allowed me to take on a more independent role within the company, for example I have been trusted to visit customer farms to take soil and silage samples along with weighing calves and heifers. Although I haven’t been able to visit many farms, I have enjoyed meeting a selection of farmers, from a safe distance of course. They have always been interesting to talk to and I’ve found it insightful to hear their views on different farming methods and what works best for them.

By working virtually I thought it may limit my opportunities to meet and connect with colleagues from across the company. However by developing my confidence levels I have been able to pick up the phone and call someone I didn’t know. The prospect can be quite daunting but everyone who I have interacted with so far has been more than happy to help me. I have met so many account managers and forage specialists from across the UK and they have helped me with queries and projects which has been so useful.

Key projects

During the last six months I have been working closely with the Ruminant Communications Team. Here are three key projects that I have been completing.

1. Raw material graphs

A few months ago I took on the role of creating the Raw Material Graphs (RMG) which are sent out to all of the Account Managers in the UK. These graphs are created on a weekly basis and show the fluctuating prices of cereals, rape, soya, and fibre. I also create a prediction of the forward prices for cereals, proteins and fibres. Sarah Bond from the Raw Materials team has been kind enough to show me the process of how the market is studied and this is something I hope to learn more about.

2. Social media

As I’m part of the Ruminant Communications team I have been given lots of opportunities to produce social media posts for the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter channels. It is interesting to learn what to put out onto social media in order to catch the attention of customers and prospects. This really is a shop window so it’s important the content is topical and useful for the audience.

3. Placement project

I have recently began my placement project which entails looking through diet formulations and analysing mineral levels. There is a lot of information to sieve through, I’m only in the early stages of the project, but am looking forward to finding out more about minerals and the composition that is needed for different animals.

Reviewing my goals

Afbeelding: Philippa march 2021 - silage sampling

Six months ago when I started at ForFarmers I set my sights on the Youngstock department. Whilst I am still passionate about youngstock and the development of calves into strong heifers, my eyes have definitely been opened by the Forage team. I have been able to work alongside experts and have learnt so much from them. This has definitely moved my passion from youngstock to forage and in particularly soil.

All animals need feeding and whatever crop you are looking to grow within your rotation, it is important to maintain the quality of your soil in order to maximise your output. Healthier soils initiate and encourage the growth of better, higher yielding crops which consequently gives your animals a more nutritious source of food.

Looking ahead I hope I’ll be able to visit some more farms and delve deeper into the forage side of ForFarmers.