Third generation farmer Abi Reader milks 180 head of cattle at the family farm in south Wales.
34 year old Abi farms with her father and uncle on 800 acres just outside Cardiff. She has just been appointed to the NFU’s national dairy board and is very involved in other initiatives. She is part of the Welsh Dairy Farm Innovations Group, SE Wales TB Eradication Board, Cattle Vaccination Board, Vice-President of the local YFC, Founder of #Cowsontour, as well as being an AHDB Dairy Ambassador and hosting Open Farm Sunday, among many other commitments.
While constantly looking for new ideas and challenges to bring value back to the industry, Abi is also interested in investigating how integration can help improve buying/selling power, knowledge support and risk sharing among farmers.
We spoke to Abi about her aims, the future of dairy farming and the #HappyCows campaign:
British dairy farmers are amazing
The UK is the third largest milk producer in Europe after France and Germany, which is crazy when you think of the difference in land size. It’s amazing what we’re achieving on this small island. We manage to be more efficient than the biggest producers in the world, which means British dairy farmers are amongst the very best in the world. That’s something to shout about.
What British dairy has to offer is huge
British dairy farmers offer a brilliant product in terms of milk from grass, be that grazed or silage. So we have something fantastic to sell to the rest of the world.
Even though we’re over producing and struggling in prices at the moment, when demand does pick up – which it will – Britain is going to be a world leader in production, efficiency and quality.
Being on the NFU national dairy board means I can influence things for the better
My main goal is to put dairy farmers in a stronger position. Dairy farming has a huge mountain to climb, but by taking small steps, and hopefully a few giant leaps, the board and the NFU will climb that mountain and give the dairy industry a future it can be confident in, and look forward to. I have every faith.
Dairy needs to be meaningful
I’m particularly interested in developing farming’s connection with consumers and making the dairy industry more meaningful to them. Every one person we achieve this with is one person closer to getting a better market for dairy farmers.
But dairy farmers can improve their fortunes by taking the situation into their own hands as well, by generating demand in new markets. It’s not just about major retailers; there are plenty of other options such as pubs, restaurant chains, cafes and more, by generating new relationships with them.
These businesses don’t know who their local farmers are – as an industry we can be so distant from these sorts of businesses it’s unbelievable. Farmers need to put their hands in the air and says ‘we’re here’ and we have a fantastic product.
Children need to know about the link between farm and fork
It shouldn’t be just about having milk delivered to schools, its should also be about the milk to help children connect food to farms. I visit schools in my area regularly, and even take a cutout cow with me to help children understand the link between food and farming. I’m very interested in helping youngsters understand the link as what they learn continues with them into their adulthood. Every young mind we educate is another customer for tomorrow.
World Milk Day on June 1 and the #HappyCows campaign shows consumers British dairy is a good industry
Farming can be clouded in a lot of jargon, so a simple phrase can make such a huge difference. The #HappyCows social media campaign is something consumers can relate to, and provides an image in their mind that gives confidence about British milk production.
It’s also fun, and brings out the positive side of what we do. Consumers don’t just want to see all the facts and figures, what they want to see is the fun and positive side of everything we do. #HappyCows reminds consumers it’s a good industry and in the UK we produce healthy milk from happy cows – something that resonates with consumers.