When First Milk, one of the UK’s leading dairy processing companies, comes calling for one of its regular animal health audits at Great Molleston Farm, a 400 acre dairy farm near Narberth, young farmer Hannah Phillips is well-prepared.
Hannah (28) has focused on continual professional development (CPD) through her calf management and cattle mobility knowledge, having completed subsidised Farming Connect training on these important topics in 2020. She also has the required evidence to prove her learning credentials to First Milk and Tesco, thanks to Storfa Sgiliau, Farming Connect’s online record keeping tool, which sets out all her achievements and qualifications.
“Farming Connect updates my Storfa Sgiliau record every time I undertake training or attend any of its knowledge transfer activities such as farm open days or discussion groups.
“This means I can speedily access all the evidence First Milk or any farm assurance organisations require to prove that we have the necessary skills on the farm and that we’re up to date with current best practice and regulations,” says Hannah, who combines farming with her part-time job as an administrator for one of Pembrokeshire’s leading land-based training providers.
Growing up on the farm and working alongside her dad means that Hannah has learnt the practical side of farming on the job, but having studied textile design at college, she turned to Farming Connect to address what she felt was a gap in her agricultural technical knowledge.
“I was determined to learn the theory behind so much of what we do every day because it’s essential that our herd of around 200 mainly Holstein Friesian cows are performing at their best at all times, both in terms of their health and productivity.”
As part of First Milk’s Tesco cheese group, Hannah and her dad need to provide accurate data on a wide range of animal health topics as well proof of their annual carbon footprint.
“The animal health training I’ve undertaken through Farming Connect has not only helped the farm comply with both First Milk and Tesco requirements, but we now look at everything on the farm through a more targeted perspective and early detection aids more efficient herd management,” says Hannah.
Esther Stephens, Area Manager (Wales) for First Milk said that carrying out regular, accurate mobility scoring of the dairy herd is important.
“Having the ability to recognise the early signs of poor mobility and possible new issues at an early stage will have a great impact cow foot health and overall herd health, while also being an important part of contract compliance within retailer milk pools.
“Having the opportunity to learn these skills through funded courses and utilising Storfa Sgiliau to provide an up-to-date personal record to evidence all training participated in, is a very useful and unique resource that we would encourage all members to take advantage of,” said Ms. Stephens.
With Hannah’s Farming Connect training provided by specialist farm vets and dairy experts, she is now able to identify and manage any potential health issues when calf rearing, as well as noting early signs of any lameness in the milking herd.
“I’m now much more confident about so many areas of herd health and can spot the signs of potential issues before they affect cow performance or milk yield.”
Hannah’s plans for the immediate future involve applying for more training on relevant animal health topics, as well as learning more about soil and grassland management. She also plans to bolster her skills through Farming Connect’s e-learning courses.
“With more than 100 fully-funded online courses available, I’m planning to prioritise this type of learning, which I can fit into my spare time.
“All farmers need to look at the bigger picture, our aim is to get every element of the business performing as efficiently as it can, especially with the current emphasis on reducing the industry’s carbon footprint, so we can operate more sustainably and protect our natural environment,” says Hannah.
Hannah hopes she’ll one day get back into being creative, making the range of kitchen textile items she previously sold online, at local events and craft fairs through her ‘Cosy Barn’ enterprise.
“I also plan to utilise some of Farming Connect’s business management training options because this will help me develop the textiles venture, and hopefully that’s a diversification idea I can expand when the time is right.”
This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
For further information about Farming Connect skills and mentoring services, including short accredited courses, e-learning and Storfa Sgiliau, visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect