Neil has been a dairy farmer since graduating from Harper Adams Agricultural College in 1986. In the late 90’s, while running a 2,500 acre estate in Devon, with 1000 cows in three herds, Neil visited Australia and the US on a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, wanting to better understand the complexities of managing a large dairy and exploit economies of scale.
He came back impressed by the perceived efficiencies of the US model, convinced at the time that the business principles and common industry practices would be the key for UK dairy success.
But all that changed when in 2000 he took on Lordswood Farms, responsible for nearly 3000 cows, milked in 13 herds and run over 4,500 acres. Within the total herd were three smaller herds of dual purpose cows, which over time impressed Neil with their healthy robustness, to the degree that they now account for the majority of his overall herd.
It was his experience of running so many Holstein cows, he became very aware of their limitations and the additional support the high-output cows needed, in terms of time, labour and other costs. He started to see that his dual purpose cows actually worked out more cost effective in the long run and began to change his previously held beliefs on the US mega-dairy model.
These days, in addition to the day job, he is developing a simple milk production system, which utilises a range of robust cows that are easier to manage, use grass and home-grown feeds and ultimately give more reliable profit in these uncertain economic times. The project aims to engage with consumers, politicians and other farmers, connecting people with their food, under the banner of Free Range Dairy.