Two dairy farmers have won the chance to go abroad to study increasingly significant trends in dairy farming that could help the UK after winning Asda/Arla Dairy Farmer Scholarships.
The two scholarships for 2007 provide funding of up to £3,000 each for fact-finding visits to anywhere in the world for members of Arla Foods Milk Partnership.
Ian Close, who farms in Lancashire at Arkholme near Carnforth, intends to visit America to investigate large herd management methods in two of the top dairying states - Wisconsin and California.
"California interests me because of the heavy investment that they have put in to increasing herd sizes," said Ian. "It is starting to happen here in the UK and we need to ensure our cow management adapts to new challenges in order to maintain a profitable and viable dairy industry."
Ian plans to make the most of the opportunity of visiting the States by also researching the management of immigrant labour, herd health, fertility, nutrition and building design while he is there.
Ian hopes that his findings from the trip will be useful for dairy farmers in the UK: "The information that I bring back will not only be helpful for producers expanding their dairy herds but also for smaller producers who want to be more efficient.
"There is always a danger that we can be too focused on our own affairs and the Asda/Arla scholarship is a good initiative in helping us to open our eyes to the wider world."
The second scholarship winner, Peter Smart from Hook Norton, near Banbury, plans to study the management of dairy herds in Australia to study how dairy farmers there cope with drier climates, following the hot weather experienced in the UK last summer.
"It will be remembered as one of the more difficult grass growing years," commented Peter. "Grass has formed the basis of milk production in most areas of the country for centuries, but in 2006 it underperformed for grazing and especially silage-making."
Following industry expectations that more hot summers are ahead in the UK, Peter plans to visit south east Australia to see how they deal with the extreme climate where the grass browns off, growing maize is a struggle and they are going through one of their worst droughts in memory.
Having already contacted the Department of Agriculture at Melbourne University in preparation for his trip, Peter hopes that he will return with some ideas, which will be helpful in the evolution of the UK dairy industry.
Ian Cameron, group farm liaison manager for Arla Foods, said the scholarships were good for members of the Partnership.
"Giving farmers the chance to undertake research in the country of their choice is a great opportunity for them and other members of the Partnership. Peter and Ian will be presenting their findings at AFMP meetings when they return.
"This is the second year that we have run the scheme which adds real value to members."
Last year AFMP members Dougie Lund visited Sweden to learn more about breeding and Robert Morris-Eyton visited China to study the rapidly growing Chinese dairy industry. Both winners presented their findings at a recent AFMP dinner.
This year’s scholarships, which have to be taken before the end of the year, were open to all members of Arla Foods Milk Partnership and their immediate families.
A judging panel of Dr Chris Brown, agricultural strategy manager for Asda, Wes Abbey, AFMP vice-chairman and Arla Foods director of milk buying Peter Walker selected the two winners.