DAIRY, SHROPSHIRE / POWYS: Brought up on a farm on the Welsh borders, Hannah has always loved working with cows, and reared calves throughout her childhood. But she didn’t think a career in dairy farming was possible as there wasn’t enough work on the family farm to support her and her five brothers.
She applied to university but after working part-time on a local dairy farm to earn some cash, realised that cows (rather than classrooms) were her “happy place.” So she gave up her university place and became a self-employed herdswoman, working on other people’s farms.
Then the owner of one of the farms sold his dairy herd and with the help of a loan, Hannah managed to buy 40 of his pedigree Holsteins, which she added to her own existing herd of milking heifers. She now runs the farm, milking around 65 cows, and the former owner works for her. “I am very lucky that this farmer gave me the opportunity to farm his farm,” says Hannah. “A lot of farmers don't do this sort of thing if they have no offspring to take over their farm.”
One of Hannah’s passions is cattle breeding and building the genetics of her herd. That means improving her cattle, generation by generation. It’s a different approach to her brothers who run a ‘flying herd’, where they buy in replacement heifers and cows from other farms.
“Keeping cow families is very important to me,” says Hannah. “I have quite a few families that have three or four generations in the herd. I'm sure they know they are related as I often see them hanging out together, and they come into the milking parlour together. It's nice to look back through the generations, and see how I can improve the genetics in the future.”
"I believe it's incredibly important that people know where their food comes from, know the level of care that farmers give to their animals and know that farmers are not the evil people we are sometimes portrayed as. Our animals’ needs come way above our needs, and if we didn't love them, quite simply we wouldn't be farming. Cows are also doing an extremely valuable job, which is building the structure and fertility of the soil with their manure."
BBC Countryfile (January 2019), bbc.com, Farmers Weekly