Thomas Westcott’s Agricultural Consultancy Service supports farms and agricultural businesses across the South West. Kate Dymond and her family’s dairy farm is one of the businesses to benefit from the expertise and knowledge of the team.
Thomas Westcott’s Peter Brown and Nikki Smale have been working closely with Kate and Battledown Farm for three years.
Kate’s parents, Rodney and Jayne, bought Battledown Farm near Shebbear, in Devon, in 1989, the year Kate was born. They not only set up a dairy farm, but a contracting business as well.
After working on the farm in her formative years, Kate left home to study for a degree in agriculture at the prestigious Harper Adams University, before returning home.
Battledown Farm and Battledown Contractors have now separated into two distinct businesses, with Kate taking over responsibility for the day-to-day running of the dairy farm. The farm has 250 cows, as well as 100 young stock, farming over 145 hectares – 39 of which is owned by the Dymond family. They also grow their own arable crops to feed the herd.
Battledown Farm supplies Crediton Dairy with milk from their cows.
Kate said: “Around three years ago, we reached a crunch time. The shed for our cows wasn’t fit for purpose. We had too many cows for the space we had and we needed a plan to move forward.”
It was around this time that Kate’s father met Peter, Director of Thomas Westcott’s Agricultural Consultancy Service, at an open day. Peter was originally engaged to do a one-off appraisal of the farm. From there, Peter’s work with the farm grew and developed.
Working closely together, Peter and Kate drew up a business plan with proposals to get the cows performing even better and get the farm’s finances in better order.
After securing agreement from the farm’s bank, a brand-new, upgraded barn, completely fit for purpose, was completed in October 2018. It makes feeding the herd more efficient and consistent, and means the cows are more comfortable.
Peter added: “The key focus of the farm is the dairy herd – 80% of the farm’s income comes from milk sales, so it’s vitally important to get that right. At the moment, the focus is on trying to increase output, reduce costs and therefore improve profitability.
“Our motto is ‘By Your Side. On Your Side.’ That’s what we have tried to do for Kate. I am committed to giving her the best advice, provide her with data and make contacts on her behalf.” Peter and Nikki have supported Kate in a number of other ways, consulting on a range of areas including technical performance monitoring and accounts analysis.
Kate also takes advantage of Thomas Westcott’s Dairy Technical Service, which the firm started offering in October 2018. Every month, Thomas Westcott reports the outcome of the farm’s milk yield and uses the data to identify areas that could be improved. The report analyses milk production and feeding efficiencies, milk quality, somatic cell count and fertility.
Peter and Nikki’s technical knowledge and advice is also helping to make Battledown Farm’s milk yield more profitable, just as the Agricultural Consultancy service does for other farmers across the South West. Kate said: “Thomas Westcott provide us with a rounded service. Other consultancy firms would simply come in and give us information, then leave us to it. Peter, on the other hand, makes himself available, helping us to assess what we have done and advising us on what we plan to do next.
“If he sees something in the accounts, he will ring up and ask questions and suggest how we make something better.
“Working with the Agricultural Consultancy Service has driven us forward, made us more sustainable and given me more confidence.”
Kate has a team of experts around her that she can turn to for advice and support. Kate, Peter and Nikki also work closely with Harpers Feeds Nutritionist Rich Waters and Jo Wingfield, NatWest’s Relationship Agricultural Director for Cornwall and North Devon.
Peter said: “As a firm, we are able to bring together a team, including a feed specialist and the bank, that can help improve the performance of the farm.”
Kate added: “We have regular meetings all together, and our cows are now performing much better. Providing a detailed plan, and getting the right people on board, has helped give our bank more confidence to help us move forward.”
Although it’s relatively early in her career as a herd manager, Kate has taken over responsibility for the farm with a desire to drive efficiency and improve profitability, constantly looking to make things better. Over the next four years, with help from the Thomas Westcott team, she aims to improve performance and clear debt.
Kate: “We would like to increase our yield by 20 per cent to 9,000 litres per cow, per year. We are currently producing just over 8,000 up from 7,000, just a few years ago. “We are looking to increase cow comfort, utilise feed and forage better and make sure the right cows get in calf.
“We will continue to use the information that Thomas Westcott provides to better make decisions about the farm and our business.”
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