Christopher Padfield  -  Post Formal Education - nurturing and growing talent?

I live on work on a 4th generation family farm on the Gloucestershire / Worcestershire border.  It is a mixed farm consisting of a Beef fattening joint venture and growing combinable crops.  We have been direct drilling all crops including maize for the last decade.  The farm is entered into an HLS scheme which is central to our focus on creating wildlife habitat around the enterprise. We also run some stubble to stubble contracting.

After working abroad in Ghana, Guinea Bissau and France, I worked for a local agricultural college mainly assessing NVQ qualifications.  I also achieved qualifications in Internal and External Verification and a PGCE (adult education).  I then set up a small training company where we offer training services, mainly LANTRA and City and Guilds qualifications, aimed at the land-based skills sector.

When not working, I love riding motorbikes and drinking whisky.  Not a great combination though a recent biking trip to Islay managed to get the best of both worlds.

I would like to thank all those supporting my Nuffield Scholarship, not least the Central Region Farmers Trust for their sponsorship, and my wife and parents for their support and backing.


  • Read Blog
  • Project Details

Dutch Dairy Training

Three businesses have plans to grow substanially and the direct hands on management may need to be delegated at some point in the future

Posted by Christopher Padfield on May 25, 2015

Appears in Business, Dairy

5-7th May in Meerndijk and Dedemsvaart

To an arable farmer, the concept of having to work 365 days a year comes as a bit of a shock.  However, due to the high level of work demanded on dairy farms, farm staff are almost always required and often their level of skill will determine the performance of the herd.  Therefore the kind invitation to visit 2 fellow 2015 scholars in Holland was accepted and I first found myself milking at Marije Klever's farm at some early hour rarely explored in recent years.  Marije grew up on this farm and with a degree in dairy production and a masters in sociology (innovation in rural development) the level of training was already high. However ongoing development was a priority and a course or programme was accessed every year.  Benchmarking with local farmers in a discussion group was held to be very useful and Marije had been a member for the last five years. A course developed by Rabobank held for 1 day a week for 3 months had been attended the previous year with its aim to help farm owners develop business plans, decide on enterprise visions and so on.  Training and information had also be accessed via the youth associations of the farm cooperative - FrieslandCampina and companies such as de Samenwerking which produce feed stocks. It was also interesting to visit Gert Kastelyn, a neighbouring dairy famer, who also ran the farm on his own, but made good use of day release students and self employed labour to complete the more labour intensive aspects of the work.


Guus Mensink and his brother run 240 cows in a newly built shed designed around 4 Lely astronaut automatic milking machines. It is an impressive set up  and the cows seemed comfortable and were in excellent health in the housed environment. As with the other farmers I visited the limits on Nitrogen and Phosphate application via slurry/manure to land often limited cow numbers on a holding, with land rents being upwards of 1000 euros/ha sometimes nearer 2000 euros.

 I have also never experienced a dairy farm where the staff room has a fully fitted kitchen, underfloor heating, an expresso machine and where you change footwear before entering.  The emphasis on this farm was to concentrate on the really important performance indicators and use a machine or contractor for the rest, hence the robots for milking and pushing up the feed.  A contractor was also used to do all the feeding of the livestock. Self employed and student labour was used to fill the gaps.  It was interesting to learn that although recruitment was mainly by word of  mouth, the most important point was that the person was not from a farming background.  This allowed the new staff to be trained in the way the farmers want the dairy to be operated and using precise protocols rather than reverting to previous practices learnt at home or other farms. There was no formal induction process for staff and it did not seem any courses or qualifications were required by law (some staff had done AI training) and quality assurance schemes didnt really look at staff.

Points to think about: All three businesses have plans to grow substanially and the direct hands on management may need to be delegated at some point in the future



Recent posts