Job profile: What’s it like to be a calf specialist?

If you’re great with people, enjoy getting stuck in to solving problems and have a good working knowledge of farming then a job working as a calf specialist could be ideal for you.

An analytical brain will come in handy as you’ll need to get to grips with recording and tracking cattle performance and strive to hit farm targets for calf growth rates, nutrition and disease management.

Farmers Weekly asked calf specialist Eimear Diamond to give some insight into her role.

Fact file

  • Name Eimear Diamond
  • Age 26
  • Job title Calf specialist
  • Company Wynnstay Group

See also: View more job profiles and agriculture careers advice

Sum up your job in a sentence or two

My job involves providing advice on calf health, nutrition and management to dairy and beef farmers, mainly within the farm setting.

I also help with monitoring farm performance through the recording of key performance indicators (KPIs), which supports on-farm decision making and helps achieve targets.

What does this involve day-to-day?

I spend a lot of my time visiting beef and dairy farms and providing consultation and support. Farmers often request advice if they feel they’re not achieving target performance, such as the desired growth rates in their calves.

I’ll help set targets and provide suggestions that will help reach them, looking at key areas including calf nutrition, disease management, housing and the environment. 

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I enjoy making a difference. When I make suggestions for changes in calf nutrition or housing for example, and I then go back to weigh the calves and can see an increase in daily liveweight gain or reduction in disease incidence, and I feel a real sense of achievement.

Historically, calf nutrition has centred around dairy calves, but I have a personal passion for the beef industry, so I also enjoy working with beef rearers and having the flexibility in my job to share my knowledge with both sectors of the industry.

What can be the downsides?

I consult over quite a large area of the country, covering the south-west region, including Devon, South Somerset, Dorset, South Wiltshire and Hampshire, so time away from home can be an issue.

What percentage of your job is office-based?

I’d say that 10-20% of my time is spent in the office. The rest of my time is spent out working with customers on-farm, helping find solutions to problems or ways to optimise performance.

What skills and qualifications are essential to the job?

Good interpersonal skills are key in my role. When you’re interacting with farmers every day you need to be a good listener.

Problem solving skills are also essential for this role. The ability to walk on to a farm with an issue, dig down to find the cause and provide a solution is vital. It’s much more about the person than qualifications. 

What experience did you have before starting? 

I grew up on a beef farm in Northern Ireland and went to study Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Bristol University.

From there, I worked for a meat processing company for two years before joining Wynnstay. I love the contact I get with farmers, and the diversity of farms I see on a daily basis.

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

Be open minded. In an advisory role there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Go on to each farm with no pre-conceived ideas of what they’re doing right and wrong.

You will come across scenarios where what the farmer is doing, in theory, should not work as well as it does. But, if it works well for someone, then you might have something to learn from them.

The agricultural industry is ever-changing and growing, and you can never have too much knowledge, so be hungry for new information and research, and be willing to pass it on.  

Give us an idea of salaries in the sector

Packages start from £19,000 for a trainee position, with performance bonus incentives and fully expensed company vehicle.

What’s the best bit of career advice you have ever been given?

Be nice to everyone and never assume you know more than anyone else.