The AHDB has been awarded £1 million from the Betty Lawes’ Foundation to expand its strategic dairy farm network.

This new financial support means the total size of the network will increase to 25 farms across Great Britain.

The foundation is the charitable trust set up by Betty Lawes, the wife of Dick Lawes, who was the founder of Volac. This funding will support the AHDB to recruit and manage an additional eight strategic dairy farms across Britain over the next five years.

In September 2017, AHDB announced plans to recruit nine strategic dairy farms. Last summer Lesley Griffiths, Rural Affairs Minister for the Welsh Government, announced that an additional eight strategic farms will be recruited by AHDB in Wales. This is part of the Dairy Improvement Programme funded through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme.

This further expansion of the network is a core part of the Dairy Productivity Collaboration established in 2018 as an Industry-Government partnership.

The collaboration is chaired by Andy Richardson, corporate affairs director at Volac, and aims to improve UK dairy productivity. It identifies opportunities for, and barriers to, deploying practical strategies for the benefit of the industry.

Welcoming the funding from the Betty Lawes Foundation, Gwyn Jones, AHDB Dairy Chair, said: “This is a step change for British dairy farmers and a significant investment in their future. Our collaborative approach means we can showcase excellence across the industry with a larger spread of farms across Great Britain. It will mean more farmers can access the benefits that strategic dairy farms offer.”

David Neville, managing director of animal nutrition at Volac, spoke on behalf of the company.

As a family business, Volac is delighted to play a leading role in the Dairy Productivity Collaboration and through the Betty Lawes Foundation, provide support for the strategic farms approach.

Each of the farms will follow AHDB’s strategic farm model and represent either all-year-round or block calving systems. They will showcase best-practice, host on-farm events and each farm will openly share their figures against AHDB Dairy’s key performance indicators.

Michael Ball, strategic dairy farmer in Derbyshire, said: “We have been a strategic dairy farm since summer 2018. We joined the network to help us in our aim to become one of the most efficient dairy farms around.

“During our time in the network, we have benefited from expert advice from consultants we have had on-farm for our meetings, as well as the farmers who have come along with ideas about what we should or shouldn’t be doing.

“We have also found being part of the network focuses us on what we are trying to achieve in our business.”