George Symes is a 16 year old apprentice dairy farmer at Holbrook Farm in Wick. He is among the first cohort of Sainsbury’s agricultural apprentices who started their formal training in October 2015. Every month the apprentices will blog about their experiences as they begin a farming career.
I chose a career in farming as it was right on my doorstep, I’m the third generation of my family to be a dairy farmer.
Farming has always interested me because of the wide range of tasks and the skills that are needed every day; from milking the cows to the upkeep of the farm by doing things like welding or tiling.
The advances in technology really interest me. Our milking parlour – a 20:20 Herringbone Parlour milking system – is just five years old and is very modern and up to date. The cows wear collars with a unique identification number which is recognised by a sensor as they enter. This number also tells the computer system how much feed to give the cow while she’s in the parlour being milked.
We milk twice a day, in the morning at 6:30 and in the afternoon at 4 o’clock. It takes roughly two hours to complete one milking session. We have a milking herd of 115 cows and 90 followers on the farm. Followers are younger animals like calves or heifers, that haven't given birth and aren’t yet milking cows. We feed the new born calves twice a day, usually after milking.
My role on the farm is to care for the livestock and this involves everything from milking the herd, to monitoring the heifers and attending to the calves. I’m developing skills in treating an ill animal by building my knowledge of illnesses and identifying the indications of particular illnesses. I’m also learning how to drive farm machinery, such as the scraper tractor and the telehandler.
Farming is a very unique occupation which is constantly changing and has different tasks every day. I think that if you are really interested in farming and committed to the work, then you will be able to create a business of your own or establish yourself as a respected worker.
My goal is to one day take ownership of the family farm and grow our successful business. Through the Sainsbury’s apprenticeship I’ve already begun to learn new ideas that I hope to introduce here and I’m looking forward to learning new things each day.
Over the course of their 18 month programme the six Sainsbury’s agricultural apprentices will take turns to write a monthly blog exploring the challenges and rewards of farming life.