SILVER AWARD FOR NEW ENTRANTS AWARD: AGAINST ALL ODDS
OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by: Massey Ferguson
Wayne and Elliot Prettejohn
W.E. Organic Dairies, Devon
Half-brothers Wayne and Elliot were not born into agriculture, but enjoyed a rural upbringing and a passion to farm.
Since leaving school, the pair have worked for local dairy farmers and have sheared and contract fenced. A major turning point came in 2002 when the pair travelled to New Zealand and began share-milking for the next five years.
Returning to the UK in 2004, they purchased 20 acres of grassland, adding to the acreage as they grew their 1,000-head sheep business, a mixture of breeds including Romney-based ewes.
But, pursuing their ultimate ambition to become dairy farmers, they took a leap of faith and talked to their four landlords, persuading them to switch from a change in production. It was a major challenge as all landlords had to agree to make the business viable and, although met with initial hesitation, the pair secured full backing.
They sold the sheep flock to purchase 140 12-month-old cross-bred dairy heifers, securing additional financial help from the bank.
With no cow sheds or milking parlour and a general lack of money, the odds were stacked against them. Confident they could adopt an alternative dairy system, and inspired by their time in New Zealand and a farming duo in Dorset operating a similar system, they established a portable milking enterprise complete with a bulk tank.
Wayne and Elliot have also built their own portable feeder and purchased the associated milking system, holding pens and lay cow tracks.
Today they operate an organic, grassland system, milking twice a day on a spring block calving system.
Little machinery for their system is required. They own a 30-year old tractor and quad and neighbouring farmers have lent equipment to them as and when needed.
Heifers are calved down at around 24 months, with calving taking place outdoors, reducing costs and removing the reliance on rented buildings.
Supplying into OMSCo, yields are around 450,000 litres with growth expected both on volume and headage in the future.