Job profile: What it’s like to be a dairy extension officer

There are a wide range of job opportunities in the food and farming sector. Farmers Weekly asks what it is like to be a dairy extension officer.

Name Becky Miles          

Job title DairyCo* extension officer

Company AHDB

Age Over 40

Sum up your job

I am the link for dairy farmers in my area to all DairyCo resources and expertise to help them progress.

I facilitate discussion groups, open meetings and forge relationships with dairy farmers and stakeholders – delivering technical information, and getting experts from all over the world in front of farmers – all with the aim of inspiring farmers to have the confidence to share best practice and examine what they do on farm and how they do it.

Even small, inexpensive ones can have a positive effect.

What does this involve day-to-day?

Meeting farmers on farm, in groups or individually, keeping up to date with the industry and working with others.

Working in partnership with the British Grassland Society, DairyCo has secured funding for two demo farms in Cornwall, where we can showcase research on lucerne, soil compaction and outwintering stock (funded by levy) in practice. I also answer a lot of emails.

What do you enjoy most?

No two days, and no two farmers or farms are the same. I value the fact that I am completely impartial and unbiased and cascading the benefits of our research and development out to farmers gives me a real buzz.

We have a passionate team at DairyCo, regionally and at Stoneleigh, working within our remit to develop a viable, sustainable industry.

What’s the downside?

Milk price at the moment is the issue which concerns all of us – but there are farmers still managing to make a profit and we can learn from them.

Understanding and sharing their successes is rewarding in itself, but DairyCo also has a role to promote a positive image of dairy farming to the public to influence their shopping habits.

We do this through This is dairy farming, which encourages people to learn first-hand about farming.

What percentage of your job is office-based?

About 20%.

What essential skills and qualifications are needed?

People skills, listening, common sense, computer literacy, the ability to take on new information and deliver it in a farmer-friendly manner, knowledge of dairy, a positive attitude, empathy and a sense of humour.

What experience did you have before starting?

Born on a dairy farm (Jerseys in north Devon), Sparsholt College (farm secretary course), Harper Adams (studying ag -business and marketing), grain trading, worked for the Danish Dairy Board marketing Lurpak, ran a farm in Portugal for six years, still do a bit of milking – in fact I milked last Christmas Day. I am a YFC leader and on the council of management for local ag-show society.

What advice would you give to someone wanting a similar role?

If you are passionate about dairy, like people and, very importantly, are open-minded then it could be for you. Join Dairy Pro to show your continuing professional development.

Attend some meetings, look at to get an idea of the resources available and talk to your local extension officer.

Give us an idea of salaries

DairyCo extension officers earn about £27,000 plus benefits.

Find out about more jobs

You can find further inspiration about the wide range of careers on offer in the food and farming sector on the Bright Crop website.

The website showcase the full range of careers across the sector and asks people who are doing the jobs to talk about what it involved, what they like and even what is not quite as exciting.

Bright Crop’ s mission is to inspire young people to consider careers in food and farming; to inform them of the diverse skills and qualifications needed to succeed and to connect them to a network of passionate industry ambassadors.

While predominantly aimed at people without a farming background – with the aim of changing preconceptions about the industry – the website is also a very useful resource for people with prior knowledge about agriculture.

See more at

Learn and work

Apprenticeships are a way to get hands-on experience of a job, a structured training programme and earn money while you do it.

Apprentices normally work on farm for four days a week and then go to their local college for formal training one day a week.

More than 36,000 applications for farming-related apprenticeships – in agriculture, horticulture and animal care – were made in the sector in 2013-14. This figure represents a ninefold increase since 2010.

They are open to anyone between the ages of 16 and 24 and, depending on your existing qualifications, you can enter at one of three levels: intermediate (Level 2), advanced (Level 3) and higher (Level 4).

The weekly wage for a 16-20 year old on an agricultural apprenticeship is about £145, rising to about £200 an 18-20 year old.

DairyCo is now AHDB Dairy