What makes the good great?

Published 7 December 15

15 top nuggets of wisdom from three leading farmers who spoke at the DairyLeader Forum 2015: 


Andrew Brewer farms in Cornwall alongside his wife Claire, running 650 mainly spring block calving cows on an extended grazing system. He says:

  • Farming is unique in that it’s an industry where knowledge is shared freely. Take advantage of that
  • Making the best of the comparative advantage we have is what gets me out of bed every morning
  • Farming is about managing people. Learn to love people and watch them develop
  • I don’t run the farm thinking about the next five years; I run it as if it had to be here for the next 1,000 years. That’s how long term and sustainable our decisions are
  • We don’t strive to be in the top 10% of farmers; we just strive to be the best we can be. 

Alex Robinson1Alex Robertson is a farm manager in Wigtownshire running 520 cows on a year-round housed system. He says: 

  • Regard the weather as your biggest variable and do all you can within financial reason to mitigate its impacts
  • Treat people with respect and as you would like to be treated
  • Stop for coffee every day with your team. Laugh at the good things, resolve the things that have gone wrong. That is your most precious time to manage the business
  • Measure everything – we know our margin per cow per day, every day
  • Look for improvement in every detail – from feeding to bedding to intake. Everything can be improved by even a fraction of a penny.

J Delves1
Joe Delves and his wife Becky farm 220 cows in East Sussex on an extended grazing system, and are also in an equity partnership in another 330-cow dairy unit in West Sussex. He says:

  • Aim to sell each cow’s body weight in milk solids each year
  • Use your own resources where you can – don’t fit a round peg in a square hole
  • Try and get off the farm at least two days per month to see what others are doing and get some perspective
  • A positive attitude just makes things work – attitude determines altitude
  • People are the absolute foundation of the business. Invest in them, take an interest and learn to love seeing them develop and – if necessary – move on.

Andrew and Joe have also completed Nuffield Scholarships titled ‘Who will milk the cows?’ and ‘How to succeed in dairy farming: attitude determines altitude’ respectively.