A friend recently suggested that the best way for me to make my farm sustainable for myself and my three sons would be to change direction and start to milk cows.

He probably has a fair point. Our fairly large block of land being all in the one piece would probably lend itself to a substantial dairy enterprise, and it may well return a larger income than we currently have with our varied beef and sheep enterprises.

Then there is the fact that we have lots of in-house labour available (myself and the three boys).

I have to admit that I have given it serious thought and there would seem to be a lot to be gained by making the switch.

When I was younger, I had a strong desire to go into dairying but while my father was alive, he strongly discouraged it.


A few years ago, I looked into the issue in great detail, and it was going to take a massive investment in housing, parlour and livestock. The way costs have gone that massive investment has got even bigger, although I am sure that the extra money generated would be able to service the extra burden of debt.

I have one big issue and that is job satisfaction. To say that, I enjoy what I am doing would be an understatement.

My suckler cows can be demanding work and difficult to manage at times but I get a lot of fulfilment from keeping them. I love to walk through my farm to see the cows and calves, admiring my handywork. I have dedicated years of breeding and choosing genetics to get to the herd of cows that I now have.

Then when I look at the heifers that I have bred and the improvement that I have made year-on-year it really gives me a buzz. And when I sell in-calf heifers and the buyer comes back the following year and says that they are his best cows, it makes me immensely proud.

I am sure that some dairy farmers will get similar satisfaction from their enterprises.

But at my stage in my farming life, it is not all about me. If any of my sons has any interest in milking, I will gladly forgo my job satisfaction and help them follow their desired direction in farming. I would never dream of standing in their way or trying to sway them in any decision.


The fact is that my eldest son has a passion for sheep, and he gets excellent job satisfaction from the sheep enterprise. It is plain to see his love for them and that is something that money cannot buy.

Then there are the two younger boys. They have a real appetite for rearing calves, and put a lot of time and dedication into the calf-rearing enterprise. You can see very plainly the contentment that they get from what they do.


Nobody knows what the future holds for any of us and where our farming will lead to, but at the moment there is no interest here in changing to dairying.

Farming is not all about making money (although it needs to be profitable to survive). You need to enjoy what you are doing. If you have a love for any job, then you are much more likely to succeed.

What I would say to my friend is “job satisfaction trumps money every time.”

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