Jackie McCreery of David McCreery & Sons, Yester Farm Dairies and recent chair of the Dairy Sector Climate Change group has been a Landmark Systems customer for over 20 years. Jackie kindly took time to talk to us about how making better use of available technology and business data can help farmers.
Tell us about your farming business…
“We have a mixed dairy and arable farm comprising 400 acres in East Lothian. We milk approximately 380 Friesian/ Holstein cross cows on a twice day, part grazed system. We run a flying herd, buying in replacements and rearing beef calves using AI. We also have a processing dairy business, Yester Farm Dairies which buys all the farm’s milk to make an award winning range of products which are supplied to the food service and retail sectors across the UK. We also have a holiday cottage.”
“I felt this was an important piece of work to be involved with: to have a chance to shape the Scottish Government’s policy for supporting Scottish farming post- Brexit, and particularly helping the dairy sector to face the challenges of climate change. We managed to pull together a robust set of recommendations in a short space of time so I am proud of the work we did. This was only the first step in a much larger piece of work to create an integrated policy across Scottish agriculture which will see all sectors meet the potentially conflicting challenges of climate change and food security for a growing population whilst ensuring profitable and sustainable businesses.”
Have your findings from the role changed any of your farming or administration practices?
“Yes, it has helped us to focus more on efficiency at every stage – fertility, herd health, cull rates etc. The more efficiently you can farm, the lower impact you will have in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. We have changed our system to graze during the day and reduced milking from three times to twice a day in part to try and lower emissions from our farming practices. We have also signed up to a project through the SAC to monitor our carbon footprint – this data will be used to compare with other EU countries and will inform us in terms of improving our own practices to reduce emissions.”
How does Landmark’s KEYPrime Accounts help you to harness relevant data?
“KEYPrime is really useful in terms of keeping track of input volumes and costs – because of the way I enter our monthly invoicing data using the previous month’s inputs, I can see very quickly where our usage and costs are changing month on month. We produce monthly P&L and cashflow reports and monitor performance against an annual budget. In an ideal world I would do this on a weekly basis but time does not allow!”
Do you have any advice for other farmers on how they can collect and make use of data?
“We are by no means experts but I would say that making yourself aware of the available technology and using apps and data collection systems which are applicable to you where possible, is invaluable in improving your knowledge about your own business. The saying “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is very true. It is very easy to get tied up in the day to day running of the business, then we don’t take a step back and look at what we are doing from an objective point of view. Having the right data and information is vital in that process.
I would also say that taking expert advice, listening to your peers and being open to learn from others is very important. If you are still farming in the way you did 20 years ago, then in all likelihood you are not doing the best job you could be doing for your land, animals, environment and community. The younger generation is much better at actively seeking advice and new ideas, so hopefully farming is moving in the right direction.”
Yester Dairy near Gifford ; Jackie and Simon McCreery amongst their Dairy herd.