Growing up in Germany Rikki Bayer had no connections with agriculture, until childhood holidays on a farm introduced her to the world of dairying. “I just loved being around the animals and helping to feed calves and milk cows. It became a bit of a passion. When it came to working out what to do after school I decided to study agriculture at university.”
Her degree course involved internships on different types of farms, but other sectors didn’t hold the same appeal for Rikki. “Dairy was my one and only love,” she says. After graduating she gained more experience with roles on high-input high-output farms in Germany before the opportunity arose to work in Australia. Having learned English at high school language wasn’t an issue so Rikki jumped at the chance. It was there that she experienced a pasture-based unit for the first time and Rikki loved the lower input system. “I really liked milking cows straight from grass and believe that it is closer to the cow’s natural behaviour. I also experienced Lely robots for the first time as the farm had six Astronaut A4s,” she says. “I enjoyed working with the robots and how you could use the data they provided.”
From there she moved to Ireland and continued to gain more experience of grazing systems, before spotting the opportunity to take on tenancy of a dairy farm near Cork city, advertised in a farming magazine. Two years later and Rikki is loving being a farmer in her own right. The farm is home to 130 milking cows plus around 60 followers and two stock bulls. The grazing platform is 120 acres and run on an ABC system with a Lely Grazeway. Cows are milked by two Lely A4 Astronauts which were in place for around eight years before she took the tenancy. “I wouldn’t want to go back to milking in a parlour,” says Rikki. “I love the flexibility you gain from robots. It means you can fit your farm around your life rather than the other way around.”
For Rikki that meant being able to take a part-time role on the Farm Management Support (FMS) team with Lely Center Mitchelstown. “Our job is to help every Lely farmer in our catchment to be as successful as they can be, and make sure they are utilising their system to the full.”
Women should not be put off going into farming if they want to, she believes. “I have seen some unconscious bias over the years. It still happens now occasionally, for example if I go to an agricultural show some people will assume that my partner is the farmer not me. But there are also lots of men who fully support women in farming and will speak up against that bias.”
Rikki’s advice to anyone wanting to get into dairy farming is to follow their heart. “Doing that has got me to where I am now,” she says. “When I was younger I wasn’t sure what opportunities there would be for me, but it turns out there are just as many opportunities for people from a non-farming background.”
Planning for success with large herds
When planning to automate a large dairy unit it’s important to think beyond milking, says Ben Nottage, Lely Atlantic’s DairyXL Account Manager.