In this week’s dairy segment, That’s Farming, speaks to Amy Eggleston about farming a 530-cow dairy herd and establishing Pastures Green Communications Ltd, her own marketing business.
Three years ago, 25-year-old Amy Eggleston returned to her family-run dairy farm after attaining her undergraduate degree and working in the marketing industry in Leeds and London.
The Leicestershire native, who studied International Business at Leeds Beckett University, later established Pastures Green Communications Ltd, which she now runs alongside her farm role. Through her marketing business, she helps rural and agricultural businesses “grow by reaching new audiences”.
“When I was younger, I was involved in the farm during school holidays but only came back full-time following university and some time working in London in marketing,” she told That’s Farming.
“It was never really planned, but I wanted to spend some time at home learning how the business worked and to spend more time outside.”
The fifth-generation farmer works on the 530-cow enterprise, alongside her father, Paul, brother, James, and farm team.
The spring-calving herd calves all in the spring, with the first 400 calves being born within five weeks. They use a selective breeding technique, breeding animals with high solids and quality features to AI, and the remainder to beef.
“It is a busy breeding season (commencing at the end of April) with all hands on deck! We breed our own replacements, and sell our beef calves to a family friend in Yorkshire.”
Their herd comprises spring-calving Friesian/Kiwi-crosses, which they farm under a grass-based New Zealand-style low-cost system. They milk the herd twice daily through two 24/48 herringbone swing-over parlours and graze cows from late February to late October – depending on weather conditions.
“The most enjoyable aspect is being outdoors – spending time with my family – rearing youngstock on the farm and seeing them re-join the herd as heifers.”
“The weather, of course, is challenging and unpredictable; it affects the job massively. Honestly, I am highly passionate about promoting British agriculture and, in particular, dairy.”
“I feel there are a lot of myths surrounding the industry which need to be addressed. I enjoy showing people where their food comes from and showing a true, accurate representation of daily life on our farm. Furthermore, I think it is important that people know the truth about where their food comes from.”
A typical day in the life
Currently, a typical day on the family’s farm is “very busy” as they are in the midst of their breeding period.
“In calving season, we have over 500 animals to calve in 12 weeks, and so it means that there is a lot to do at all times. I get to work at 4.30 am and start my day by checking for any new calves and identifying who they belong to.”
“These calves all need colostrum feeding to them, and so I ensure this happens as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the cows come in from their field for milking, and two people milk the cows.”
“Meanwhile, I get on with calf feeding and ensure each calf has everything they need, including fresh bedding, food and water. We also must feed all the dry cows (who are still waiting to calve) and then give calves ear tags to identify them (a legal requirement in the UK).”
“Once we complete the morning jobs, we can get our breakfast, and I can catch up on some emails and marketing work,” Amy added.
Cows then graze for the day before coming back in for their second milking of the day at 2 pm. The family feed calves again in the afternoon and constantly monitor cows for calving.
“I think working on-farm, we are fortunate that we have been able to continue our jobs during the global pandemic. Our job means that we are key workers, feeding the nation, and, therefore, we have continued to work every day.”
“Our animals still need care 365 days a year, and therefore, our working life has continued. Some changes have, of course, impacted everyone. I do feel lucky that the nature of our job (and working outdoors) has meant that we can be outside all day doing our job.”
‘You do not need to do a degree’
“I believe the agricultural industry is incredible – and something we should all be proud to be a part of. I love seeing people speak positively about their journey into agriculture and encourage everyone to give it a go if you think it is for you.”
“You do not have to come from a farming family or background – there are opportunities out there you have to be willing to look.”
“This is an incredible, unique industry that has so many amazing opportunities for young people. If you think you want to pursue a career in agriculture, speak to local farmers and gain some work experience. You do not need to do a degree but be willing to learn.” Amy Eggleston concluded.