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The dairy industry faces a number of challenges as it moves into the next decade of the 21st century – an aging workforce reducing in size; the need for workers to refresh their dairy skills to meet the increasing demands of a more technical industry; and the ever increasing demands of production from our Bovine partners – are only a few.
In response to this challenge, the Scottish Dairy Academy (SDA)project has been established, whose vision is to “develop the best dairy people in the world”.
The project is farmer-led, with their views and opinions informing how the Academy is run, advising on the content and format of training courses with the ultimate aim to develop the skills of workers.
After discussions with other key industry personnel, a management group has been established with representatives from dairy farmers, DairyCo, NFUS, Barony College, Milk Supply groups, Lantra and the Scottish Funding Council (who are also funding the project for 2 years through Barony College). It has also received strong support from the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association.
Jack Lawson, secretary of the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association commented, “I have pleaded over many years to develop such a practical training provision and I am delighted it has arrived. Visiting many dairying countries over my lifetime I can confirm the UK has fallen behind most of our competitors in providing such practical and necessary training”.
Australia is one competitor that has been offering a similar provision of a National Dairy Training System. The beauty and simplicity of their system is that they recognise past experience and skills of individuals and actively assist in filling in the areas of skill gaps with relevant practical training. Their training recognises that improving an individual's skillset can only be effective and generate a significant farm improvement if the skill is recognised by every person on the farm. Farm improvements can be broken down and measured into three areas, profit, cow welfare and environmental benefits.
A collaboration link was established with the National Centre of Dairy Education Australia (NCDEA) when members of the Barony College and farmer and First Milk director Tom Campbell, now Chairman of SDA, visited Australia.
The SDA over the next few months will tailor the Australian framework of training to the Scottish Dairy Industry. To test this transfer into Scotland, two pilot units were run: one Calf Rearing unit held in Stirling, another in Newton Stewart on Dry Cow Management. Both courses were delivered by well known cow nutritionist Donald Brown, now a member of Barony College staff.
The studies are ongoing with the assessment portions and follow up exercise still to be completed and evaluated, but the initial feedback has been very favourable. The initial evaluation of the Calf Rearing unit showed a 63% improvement in knowledge transfer on the day, alongside a 59% improvement in knowledge transfer for the Dry Cow Management unit.
However, as with all pilots some lessons were learned and will be implemented. We thank every person that attended and took part in both courses as their participation and feedback has been invaluable. After all, the development and success of the SDA is in their hands – the dairy farmers of Scotland.
Over the summer the SDA will be building up a bank of relevant industry skill units and is setting out to establish regional training groups comprising of dairy farmers to identify and evaluate skills training needs in their local area. The attendees on the courses can then choose if they would prefer to only refresh their skills, or go further and undertake the skill unit assessments to build to a nationally recognised qualification.
A programme of skills training units will be made available nationally in the autumn of 2010.
For further updates contact Calum McKenzie, Project Manager on 01387 243 086 or email@example.com