Farmer Focus: Effort with young people brings great rewards

The past three days have been a strange experience as there has been no rain. The concrete has now turned a shade of white and the woolly bonnet is now firmly covering my solar panel.

On the cow front, a busy calving season continues with milk production remaining steady and mastitis at an all-time low, which I’m really pleased about as we have be using selective dry cow therapy. Our antibiotics treatment is down at least 50% with no adverse effects so far.

All silage pits have been accurately measured and dry matters taken to work out a forage budget. I would really rather buy some more concentrate to supplement than buy inferior-quality silage, if it’s even available.

I believe Scottish dairy farmers, as a whole, this year will be tight for forage, so an early spring will be the first thing on my letter to Santa.

Workforce worries

As Christmas approaches, holiday cover can be a nightmare. We have four Romanians work on the dairy – they all leave on 13 December returning 3 January so this really puts a strain on the workforce.

See also: 4 step guide to recruit and retain staff on your dairy farm

Luckily, my niece was looking for some extra work so that’s one man covered. Also, a 16-year-old who came from school one day a week has been expelled from school and now will work full time with us. It’s really strange how his attitude was all wrong at school, yet on the farm he is an excellent lad with a great work ethic.

I went along to a careers event at a local secondary school where I set up stall beside two hairdressers. I had a double the enquiries at my stand compared with theirs, so it shows you good looks aren’t everything.

The same day, I had a rural skills class on a farm visit and, after that, I had two enquiries through Facebook from boys looking Saturday jobs with one wanting to do a higher national certificate in agriculture.

This is what I find so encouraging when you put some effort into connecting with young people.

I do wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Wishing all your staff turn up for their shifts.

Gary Mitchell milks 800 cows near Stranraer in Scotland, with heifers reared on a local farm. Gary zero grazes 80ha of the 195ha he owns. He is vice-chairman for NFU Scotland.