Written by Sian Mercer, Conversation, words and thoughts inspired by Abi Reader
‘When does encouragement become pressure?’
Abi grew up on the family farm but didn’t know that farming could be a career. Attending school in the city centre of Cardiff and not mixing with other farmers or joining YFC she was advised by school to become a hotel manager, it took a phone call from a rep, whilst on her year out working in M&S, who told her about agricultural college. She promptly applied for the Royal Agricultural College, and realised that agriculture could be a career.
The day she stepped out of the car at RAC is the day she felt she’d ‘come home’. This was where she was meant to be.
The farm is a traditional mixed farm, dairy, beef, sheep and some arable, run in partnership with her father and uncle. The dairy milks 180 Holstein Friesian and Dairy Shorthorn cows.
Abi’s first love was sheep, helping with lambing. The family has always been forward thinking, using the new Cambridge breed and sponges. However, it is dairy and the related industry that Abi is most passionate about.
Following her BSc in agriculture and a MBA in Farm Business Management Abi went home to take over the running of the dairy farm.
A farm is run by a team of people
A farm is a team, a set of people with a passion for what they do. If one person in the team loses that passion than the farm and ultimately the animals will suffer. Along with the help of her mum who puts in at least 5 hours a day, Luke the new farm hand and their relief milker Ross there are 4 other key players in the team;
Morgan, the local vet who comes twice a month to carry out routine visits, this is key to ensure the herd in good health and pregnant whilst keeping Abi up to date with animal health issues.
Ben the Genus RMF, since using this service fertility has increased and cows are back in calf quickly.
Richard the foot trimmer, comes once a month for preventative treatment. Since using in the foot trimmer the mobility score has increased and lameness has reduced to 3%.
Ed the nutritionist makes up the 4th of the Big 4! Keeping the herd on track.
Abi needs this team of people to ensure the herd is the best it can be – ‘just because a cow has a name doesn’t mean there is good welfare’. Good welfare comes from having a great team in place.
There are cows with names on the farm. I met Daisy and Spot, 2 favourites, coming from the same family. Although the farm is a business, Spot has a special place in Abi’s heart. On paper, she is bad for business, but there will always be one cow or cow family that the farmer just can’t let go.
Abi is keen to educate the public about farming and hosts Open Farm Sunday. She is also keen to help students; and many have passed through the gate. Morgan, her vet, was one such student, who came for work experience and has never really left!
Abi currently has a young lad working 1 day a week, who was advised by school to become a vet, however working on the farm, and a visit to the Farmers Weekly Careers day in Telford, opened his eyes to the other careers available to those
We must change the image of agriculture
Career advisors need to know that farming and its related industries are viable careers and not everyone with an interest in animals should become a vet! Farmers also need to help, it is a real struggle to get farm staff, farming needs to become an attractive job prospect, we need our farmers to become more positive and to attend careers fairs.
The ‘office’ may be dirty and wet, the suit must be waterproof and warm, but the environment and your work colleagues are so rewarding, with no day being the same.
Farming must stop being seen as a career path for the uneducated ‘I can’t read, I can’t write but I can drive a tractor!’ Especially when you need a degree to know how to start the tractor! As an industry agriculture MUST get rid of this stigma, and start representing themselves at careers fairs.These are exciting time for agriculture, new technologies such as GPS, drones and robots. Advances in genetics and medicines. Abi is keen to use new technologies on her farm, Abi and Luke have an App on their phones with all cow records on it, so with a tap of the app, they know
To be a farmer is to be multi skilled to be a business person, vet, nutritionist, scientist, plumber, electrician, mechanic, just to be able to do the daily jobs. Not to mention the related industries vets, nutritionists, mechanics, technicians, builders, fabricators to name a very small few.
For every 1 mind changed today, makes for a better tomorrow
Abi is a keen user of social media, posting positive images of her and her cows and calves. There is so much negativity surrounding dairy farming but it is up to farmers to change this and influence the media. Farmers must become more positive and become more vocal about the good they do and the food they produce.
Without farmers we don’t have food, dairy IS a necessary food for humans and has been
Too often we read how dairy is bad for us and how farmers have no compassion for the livestock, but this just isn’t true. Farmers must respect their livestock for the good of their businesses. No livestock farmer hates animals, in fact the opposite is true, there has to be great respect and compassion for them.
The passion and respect that Abi has for her cows is obvious, and they are the biggest part of the farm team. Well looked after, they are the business, and are given the respect they deserve.
If a farmer looks after their livestock the livestock will look after the farmer.
I am female; I am a farmer
I am not a farmers daughter, I am a farmer
My mum is not a farmers wife, she is a farmer.
We are farmers.
It is time we did away with titles, I am a farmer who happens to be female.
Women, wives and daughters, have always worked the farm, looking after the calves, milking, doing the paperwork, paying the bills and keeping
In 10 years time it won’t be an issue, but in the mean time we do need to encourage women into these roles and show that they aren’t just jobs for the boys.
Leave the farm once a week, leave the county once a month, leave the country once a year.
When Abi first came home, sometimes she wouldn’t leave the farm for 10 days at a time. This makes life and ideas very small and was becoming unhealthy.
However once she was asked to be a spokesperson, she grabbed the opportunity and hasn’t stopped since.
Whoever comes after you has to be better that the one before
The future must be positive, farmers attitudes must be positive.
To have a future Abi believes that the business has to grow and keep changing, to take advantage of new technologies and new ideas.
Abi’s fear – to get stuck in her ways, and be afraid to change.
Farms must move with the times, they must move with new ideas and be wiling to try and allow the younger generations to try their ideas.
I love farming and I love cows
This is a nice life, I get to work outside, and work with the cows. It is also an emotive job, where no one day is the same. I feel passionate about what I do and the industry I work in.
For non-farmers it is a hard to explain, the love of what we do, the long hours, the muck, the weather…. It is often said it is ‘a way of life’, and it has to be…. There has to be passion, there has to be drive…
Abi Reader - Farmer
Farmers are a rare breed, I just don’t know what it is about them, maybe it just that they are ‘my’ people, my grandfather, my dad, my cousins, my work colleagues… but I just ‘get’ them – they are My Tribe.
Words written by Sian Mercer - My Rural Tribe
My name is Sian Mercer and I am passionate about farming and the countryside, and those that live an work in it. They are my people, they are My Rural Tribe.