5 minutes with… Dairy Farmer of the Year James Tomlinson

It’s been a whirlwind few months for the Farmers Weekly Award winners – 15 extraordinary farmers, advisers, contractors and farmworkers who last year received one of farming’s highest accolades recognising their fantastic business achievements.

We catch up with the Dairy Farmer of the Year, James Tomlinson from Lancashire, to find out what he’s been up to since the Awards ceremony in October.

See also: Find out why we made James our Dairy Farmer of the Year

Farm facts

  • 160ha, split across two units
  • 270-head Holstein herd calving year-round
  • Sells milk to Pakeeza Dairies
  • Sells breeding bulls and heifers

What difference has winning made to you and your business?

On a personal level, it has given me confidence in what I am doing and trying to achieve. It is reassuring to know others think you are doing a good job.

This spurs you on to continue improving yourself and farm performance, which is always achievable in our industry.

On a business level, it has given the whole team here a boost as it really is a combined effort. It has put the business in the spotlight which has, in turn, opened up new opportunities.

James Tomlinson

James Tomlinson © Jim Varney

What’s the best bit of farming advice you’ve ever been given?

I was told from an early age to listen to everyone and make my own mind up. In the dairy industry there are so many different ways of producing a litre of milk and therefore always a system or method to analyse.

I would like to think I am open-minded, and constantly question the way we do things. This leads to progression and diversity.

What’s the best farming decision you’ve ever made?

Nine years ago, the opportunity arose to buy the neighbouring dairy farm. At the time I wasn’t married and milk prices were pretty dismal, so a hard decision needed to be made.

In the end, the farm was purchased as it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Putting the business into substantial debt to pay for the purchase really focused the mind and provided the platform to expand and progress.

Nine years on, we are a family of five, herd size has doubled and we have never looked back.

Brexit and the unknowns surrounding it, volatility in milk prices and our ever-changing climate are worries, but there are big technology-related opportunities in dairying – from genomics on the breeding side to robotics on the manual front.

Who inspires you?

As a former Manchester United season ticket holder, this one is easy – Sir Alex Ferguson.

He is the perfect example of how hard work, passion and commitment to a job really pays off.

When I used to go and watch games, he often didn’t have the best squad of players at any one time, but he delivered the results week on week, season on season. This required great skill.

Quick-fire questions

Where have you put your Awards plaque? In the kitchen.

Finish the sentence. Agriculture is… Rewarding.

If you were Defra secretary for the day and had the power to make one decision, what would it be? Implement fair and supportive milk contracts for dairy farmers.

The Farmers Weekly 2019 Diary Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by Armatrac. Enter or nominate now at awards.fwi.co.uk

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