Robert Gray  -  Adding Value & Marketing the Farms Produce.

Alan and Anne Beckett Award

Having grown up on a beef & sheep farm from an early age I knew farming was a natural career path for myself. I left school at 17 & moved to New Zealand where I worked up the dairy farm ladder in the South Island including working on a 3500 cow unit & managing a sheep milking unit in Invercargill. At 22 I purchased a 176Ha block & signed up to a share milking agreement on another farm in the North Island.

The following summer I returned to Scotland for a holiday & met Rhona. I decided to return to the family farm in the Trossachs National Park at Callander, Scotland & went into partnership with my parents Stuart and Val.

Influenced by my experience in the dairy sector in New Zealand I persuaded my parents to diversify into dairying & in April 2014 we started milking Jersey cows. This is on a seasonal spring calving grass based system on the principle of low cost inputs. We are now up to 400 cows in the herd and want to expand further.

I played rugby myself up to a couple of years ago and now enjoy watching Rugby matches from the side line. I married Rhona in July of this year.

I am very appreciative to Rhona & my parents for supporting my Nuffield Scholarship and to Alan & Anne Beckett for kindly agreeing to sponsor me.

I plan to travel to a number of countries during my study including, Ireland, America, Chile, Australia, New Zealand & Middle East Countries. I wish to absorb as much information about the dairy industry as possible. I would like to learn more about business efficiency & expanding our current business with a view to offering share milking contracts & start up opportunities to young/new farmers like I had the opportunity to do in New Zealand. I get frustrated by the current agricultural system which is currently very reliant on government subsidies. A dairy business can be a prosperous one with careful cost management & if a world market price is paid for the product there is no need for subsidies.

I would like to learn more about the processing of milk into dairy products and how to market them. I believe having a brand that consumers can identify with & believe in is equally as important as the quality of the product itself.

Working with our milk retailers will be key the industries expansion. I would like to investigate how can Scotland become a net exporter of milk produce? Could it be viable/advantages to have a milk drying plant in Scotland?