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.
The benefits of looking outside the farm gate: John Tully, Ballyduggan Estate, Loughrea, Thursdy 25th February
Despite being busy calving 600 cows and being his birthday, John kindly gave up his time for a really interesting chat on farm staff training. He acts as Herd Manager for a 600 cow unit, split over two blocks of 400 and 130 acres repectively. Cows are block calved and replacement heifer rearing takes place under contract off farm. John was FBD Dairy farmer of the year last year. He is an active member of the Dairy discssion group run by Teagasc and is very good at setting and monitoring the achievement of key performance indicators (KPI). Some of his targets include:
85% calving in six weeks
Calf mortality below 5%
400kg milk solids per cow = 12-14,000 kg/ha
less than 250kg of concentrates per cow
14t DM ha of grass growth over the year.
John did a degree in civil engineers at Coventry and ended up managing 90 staff in building projects in the UK before returning to dairy farming. It was interesting to learn how this influenced his running of staff. He has set up Dairy Relief Ireland as a dairy labour supply company. He mainly recruits by word of mouth, often whilst students are completing a college qualification. He recognises the high risk nature of the farming environment and sends staff on training courses like manual handling, risk assessments, etc as well as the more practical subjects such as AI, foot trimming and grass management. He also holds regulary "toolbox talks" on topics such as care of machinery, careful driving etc. The use of toolbox talks imported from the construction industry is a simple way of promoting a safe enviroment and better work practices effectively, relatively informally and non-confrontationally but also rigorously. It was great to see Health and Safety promoted so much as part of running the farm. He also budgets 500 euros a head for training, which as he points out, is a very small part of the overall wage bill. He stated you have to accept that some staff will leave after receiving training but the benefits of improved performance should outweigh the training cost. Training courses could be accessed and subsidised via organisations such as Skillsnet and the Galway Rural Development Company. John would like a more defined training programme or scheme to reflect that agriculture is a respect professional career for young people with clear progression.
Points to Ponder:
To inspire young people to enter the agricultural industry, it needs to present itself as a professional, respected career with structured training and CPD