Succession planning is something I have been giving a lot of thought for many years. I do have a strategy in place, and while it is by no means perfect, at least it is a plan.
I am lucky in that I have three sons who all want to make a living from my farm. I am under no illusions that it will be easy, but I have got to prepare for when I am no longer able or willing to farm any more.
I find it hard to watch other farmers working away into old age when there are lots of young people about who would be willing to take over. There are some farmers who hold on to the reins for so long that the next generation get fed up waiting and move on to something else.
Running the farm
I like to think that I am giving my boys a fair chance. They already have a big say in the day-to-day running of the farm. I intend to retire in a few years and let them have full control, and I can then work for them.
My eldest son William worked on a sheep farm in Scotland for over six years, but a couple of years ago he came back home. I give him full control of the sheep flock.
I had thought that I was managing the sheep flock reasonably well but in the last couple of years he has made massive strides forward. When I look back, I was concentrating on my suckler cows and not spending as much time with the sheep.
He has that bit more time and a real love for the sheep. William is by no means the finished article, but he has a real drive to succeed. He has seen the way that I have tried to make the most of my suckler enterprise and he wants to push the sheep enterprise in the same direction.
He has also seen the benefit that can be gained from having other farmers and groups visiting. So much so that, when there became an opportunity to take part in the CAFRE Technology Demonstration Farm (TDF) project, he was really keen to apply.
I give him my full backing, but I told him that if he was going to try for this he had to do it on his own bat and it could not be related to anything that I have done (I am also a TDF farmer specialising in beef fertility).
He was more than happy to go along with this. He filled out the application and received an interview. After going through the process, he was successful.
Before taking any visitors, he was tasked with undertaking a trial farm walk with some CAFRE advisers and support staff. I looked on in the background as he did a presentation and then proceeded to take the advisers on a tour of his sheep enterprise.
It was quite surreal for me to be taking a back seat at a farming event on this farm. But it was an immensely proud moment for me. I could see that he was nervous, but he was very assured and enthusiastic about what he was telling the group.
Hopefully, he will get lots of visits and get as much satisfaction from them as I do.
It is great to see the next generation having success in their chosen path, but it is even better for me as I am able to watch my eldest son take something which I started, and push it to a new level.
I would encourage all farmers to give the next generation a chance. Helping them succeed is immensely satisfying.