In times of peace plan for war

Joe Delves

UK dairy farmer and Nuffield Scholar Joe Delves at the Dairy Research Foundation Symposium in Kiama

Over the years I have been on lots of dairy industry conference committees and I must admit I often found this a very frustrating exercise. VERY FRUSTRATING

Why you ask?

Well in today’s world if you genuinely want to farm for the long haul you have to get everything right. By everything right I mean farms in the 21st century have to be socially acceptable, environmentally friendly as well as financially rewarding.

Up until the Dairy Research Symposium conference in Kiama last week the dairy industry totally shied away from discussions about relationships with their value chain partners and customers. Dairy farmers it seemed (or so previous conference committee members I had worked with thought) didn’t want to listen to anybody talk about anything beyond the farm gate. It was cows,cows,cows.

So to hear the Chairman of Dairy Australia get up at the dinner and say he and the CEO of Dairy Australia thought the conference was the best conference they had ever attended and the reason why was in particular the social content of the program made my heart sing.

One of the speaker highlights was UK Farmer and Nuffield scholar Joe Delves who farms in the south east of England.

I had the pleasure of hosting Joe for a day when he was in OZ in early January. Joe is all personality and his presentation truly resonated with everyone in the room

Lets have a look at some of the insightful things Joe had to say

The biggest thing that influences my life is my attitude to myself and my dairy business. Unknowingly I have built the business around my values

Joe on values



On goal setting


On sharing


On being honest about yourself



On value chain thinking





On being business focussed


On being business focused



On Consumer relations

Appealing to your customer is not as simple as you think and just what are we trying to achieve?



On whingeing

Appreciate what you have in your own backyard


On attitude

Attitude is everything


On self reflection


You can listen to Joe talk to Radio National Reporter Sarina Locke here

Coles your are breaking my heart

A few things lately have reminded me of the phrase “live everyday like it is your last” and for me that is waking up everyday to fulfil my legacy for youth in agriculture.

Today we hosted Nuffield Scholar Joe Delves and after spending this week in workshop with a number of our inspiring Young Farming Champions and Young Eco Champions I wish I had known more about Joe so I could have ensured he joined us earlier to meet and inspire the team.

What a breath of fresh air he is and excitingly just the right age to be a Young Farming Champion ( looking forward to bringing the program to UK Joe so we can extend the network and get the same outcomes in your country)

Joe Delves @ Culwalla

Joe Delves lifted my spirits today and I thank Nuffield for giving him the opportunity to do just that  

As you might have guessed Joe hails from the UK. Here is part of his blurb on the Nuffield site

I am a third generation dairy farmer from East Sussex. We are currently running 210 cows and 160 followers ( replacement stock), …. I have a wife called Becky and two gorgeous daughters, Faith who is three and Evie who is one. Our goal as a family is to demonstrate that dairy farming can be sustainable, profitable and fun!!


My Nuffield project is to “How best to save/promote the dairy industry (UK)”

My main reason for wanting to study this topic, was to see if there was some way of linking up exiting farmers and new entrants in the dairy industry. Hoping that this would help to combat the decreasing number of farmers and the ever increasing average age of the dairy farmer. In between these two issues you have other factors such as subsidies, taxation and a lack of long term business planning. I have spent the past months travelling the UK looking at farms and talking to farmers young and old. There is a clear lack of career path for young people, they also lack those farming hero’s to aspire too. We have lost a lot of our pioneer spirit in the UK which I think is the effect of farmers becoming heavily reliant on subsidy. Through my Nuffield Scholarship i hope to reinvigorate the UK dairy industry.

One of the first things Joe said to me is “In the UK my generation likes to think of ourselves as 1st generation business men”. Joe is not only a wealth of ideas he  has put them into practice including innovative ways to give young people a start-up in the industry using corporate investors to buy the land that young farmers cant afford and then finding support for them to fund  purchase of cows and infrastructure

On a personal level it was heartbreaking to show Joe the farm today ravaged by extended dry conditions put to the test by our innovative efforts to counter the devastation caused by the milk price wars instigated by Coles. I have never seen our farm look this barren and in fact I took pictures but don’t want to post them   

This week Coles came out and said “It not our fault dairy farmers are suffering”  Well I say Coles its time you thought about the legacy you wake up everyday to leave for the Australian dairy industry because to me you must have hearts of stone to sleep at night. I can tell you, because I know Australian dairy farmers are being brought to their knees and admit it or not Coles you are part of the reason why.

Come and see my what is left of our beautiful farm, hear our story. We strive to be the best of the best and we are almost broken. How much further you can push us I don’t know, how you justify your marketing practices I don’t know. What I do know you are part of the problem and its time you become part of the solution. Here is a start Coles how about you follow Sainsbury’s lead “Sainsbury’s raise lamb prices for farmers”