STEP BY step expansion over five years has kept the bank manager happy and ensured that Alec and Phillip Raffe have been able to create a viable business for the next generation.
The brothers have increased from 60 to 200 cows and built the farm at Bradworthy, Devon, up to 61ha (150 acres) through setting targets and achieving them before moving onto the next stage.
“The only way to make a living for two families was to expand. The next generation wanting to farm was an added incentive,” says Alec Raffe.
“We were initially reluctant to put in a new 16/30 parlour because the farm was just 80 acres. But 60 acres came up next door which led us on.” With family labour on hand, there were no concerns about employing staff and the Raffes did their own building work, adding new cubicles and improving feeding arrangements, to save money.
Initially, the plan was to stop at 120 cows. However, this year they will reach 200 and this could rise further depending on milk price, says Mr Raffe. “We”ve now built a shed for dry cows and in-calf heifers and youngstock are reared away.” He advises other producers to be 100% committed should they consider a big expansion. “It gets pressured, particularly as we did the building ourselves. We were milking too many cows through inadequate facilities.”