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Farm Manager

Farm managers run their own farm or are employed to run a farm efficiently and profitably. The farm may have livestock such as cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry, crops such as wheat, potatoes, sugar beet and vegetables, or a mix of the two.

Some farmers practice 'Precision Farming', requiring the use of new technologies, such as global positioning (GPS), sensors, satellites or aerial images, and information management tools to assess and understand variations. Collected information may be used to evaluate optimum seed-sowing density, estimate fertilisers and other input needs, and more accurately predict crop yields.

A farm manager's daily work may include:

  • organising and supervising the running of the farm
  • keeping records
  • managing the environmental impact of the farm on the local area
  • marketing and selling produce
  • ensuring the farm is operating within the legal guidelines set by bodies such as the Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • day-to-day practical work on the farm
  • other activities such as managing a farm shop or running a bed and breakfast.

Most farm managers are contracted to work standard full-time hours. However, in practice, many work longer hours, especially at busy times of the year. The nature of the job means that farmers may need to be on call day and night, seven days a week, especially where livestock are concerned. The practical work is usually outdoors, in all weather conditions, although the work of a manager also involves office work.

Salaries may range from around £20,000 to £50,000 a year or more for a manager of a large farm with over ten years' experience.

A farm manager needs:

  • total commitment to farming
  • business management and marketing skills
  • an understanding of health and safety
  • to understand modern farming methods
  • an interest in science and the environment.

There are approximately 150,000 agricultural businesses in the UK, employing around 21,500 farm managers. Farm managers may own their own farms or work for large estates, large food-producing companies or public organisations.

The normal route into this career is to start work as an assistant manager or as the manager of a production unit. Some practical work experience of farm work is required prior to this. Although there are no set requirements, most farm managers have a qualification in agriculture or a related subject, and usually several years' practical experience. There is a range of qualifications available at different levels. The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies may be relevant for this area of work.

Most agricultural courses include training in technical agricultural production and may be followed by a specialist course in farm business management.

Experienced farm managers may move into technical sales, consultancy and teaching, or work as an agricultural adviser for statutory bodies. Some successful farm managers may be responsible for overseeing the work of several farms.

What is the work like?

Farm managers run their own business or are employed by another person to run a farm efficiently and profitably.

Farming varies enormously, depending on the local climate, soil and accessibility of markets for selling the farm produce. A farm manager's daily work depends on the type of farm they are managing. There are three main categories of farming:

  • Livestock - raising animals such as cattle (both beef and dairy), sheep (for meat and occasionally wool), pigs and poultry. Nowadays, other animals are farmed such as goats, deer, llama and ostrich. Farm managers also arrange the humane transportation of livestock to market or to abattoirs for slaughter.
  • Arable - growing crops for human and animal consumption, such as cereals (wheat, barley, maize and oats), potatoes, sugar beet, fruit and vegetables, as well as non-food crops for the energy and pharmaceutical industries. Farm managers may also deal with harvesting, storing and processing crops, which may involve using mechanised and computer-controlled equipment.
  • Mixed - combining livestock and arable farming.

Some farmers practice 'precision farming', requiring the use of new technologies, such as global positioning (GPS), sensors, satellites or aerial images, and information management tools to assess and understand variations. The information gathered may be used to evaluate optimum seed-sowing density, estimate fertilisers and other input needs, and more accurately predict crop yields.

Farmers are required to work within the regulations set by the European Union and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Many farms are also members of farm assurance schemes which set standards, over and above the regulations, for safe, high-quality produce farmed in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The day-to-day work of a farm manager may include:

  • Planning - setting production targets, recruiting, managing and mentoring staff, buying materials needed for the farm, such as animal feed, and maintaining health and safety on the farm.
  • Record keeping - managing the farm's budget and cash flow, and communicating with organisations that make payments to farmers who are committed to strict environmental and production standards.
  • Legislation - ensuring the farm is operating within the legal guidelines set by bodies such as DEFRA, the European Union (EU) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
  • Environmental considerations - managing the environmental impact of their farm on the local area. This can range from ensuring rivers are free of pollution from farm products to protecting soils and features in the countryside, particularly if the farm is situated on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
  • Continually monitoring the quality and performance of their produce.
  • Monitoring the health and welfare of their animals.
  • Marketing and selling produce - negotiating with buyers such as supermarket chains, food processors or local supply chains.
  • Practical work: on smaller farms, farm managers may be involved with general tasks such as feeding livestock, driving tractors and operating and repairing machinery.
  • Diversification: many farmers have extended their activities to supplement their income, for example by running a bed and breakfast or a farm shop.

Farm managers work closely with the farm owner, and possibly other farm managers and farm management consultants.

Hours and environment

Most farm managers are contracted to work standard full-time hours. However, in practice, many farm managers work longer hours. The nature of the job means that farmers may be on call day and night, seven days a week, especially where livestock are concerned. There are often no set hours and certain times of the year are particularly busy. Early morning starts are typical. The hours worked are often influenced by the season, such as harvest time or the lambing season. Days worked during these seasons can be typically long.

Practical work on the farm is mainly outdoors, in all weather conditions. Some of the work involving pigs, poultry or other livestock may be indoors. The work involves lifting, carrying, bending and standing. It is a rewarding and challenging career but, invariably, working with livestock involves handling the animals and is likely to be dirty, and working on an arable farm is likely to be dusty.

Farm managers also spend time in an office dealing with paperwork. On a smaller farm, the manager will get involved in many of the farming tasks, while, on a larger farm, the manager is likely to spend most of their time in a farm office.

A driving licence is useful.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

Minimum wage scales for agricultural work are set each year by the Agricultural Wages Boards for England and Wales. Individual employers may pay more according to the manager's skill and experience.

  • Starting salaries for farm managers are at least £20,000 a year.
  • With experience, farm managers may earn between £26,000 and £30,000.
  • The manager of a large farm with over ten years' experience may earn over £50,000 a year.

Many farm managers will be provided with rent-free accommodation and a vehicle. There may also be other benefits such as free farm produce and a pension scheme.

Skills and personal qualities

A farm manager needs:

  • total, genuine commitment to farming
  • time management and organisational skills
  • business management and marketing skills
  • an understanding of health and safety issues
  • an understanding of animal health and welfare
  • awareness of consumer needs and food quality issues
  • to understand how farming can impact on the environment
  • to be able to meet the physical demands of the job
  • the ability to negotiate with buyers
  • the ability to maintain budgets and keep financial records
  • good information and communication technology skills (ICT)
  • to be able to organise and motivate staff.

Interests

It helps to be interested in:

  • science, in order to understand the production systems, the livestock and the needs of specific crops
  • caring for the environment
  • business management.

Getting in

There are approximately 150,000 agricultural businesses in the UK, employing approximately 660,000 people. Of these, over 21,500 are farm managers.

Farm managers may own their own farms or work for large estates, large food-producing companies, agricultural colleges, and scientific research institutes or public organisations.

Agriculture in general has an extremely high level of vacancies that are hard to fill. Information on vacancies for farm managers can usually be found in agricultural publications, in local newspapers and by word of mouth. The website, http://www.4xtrahands.com/index.php also list vacancies

Entry routes

The normal route into this career is to start work as an assistant manager or as the manager of a single production unit. Some practical work experience is necessary prior to this stage. Many farms are focused on a single element/activity of farming; therefore it may be necessary to move from one type of farm to another to gain a breadth of experience.

Although there are no set requirements, most farm managers have a qualification in agriculture or a related subject, and usually several years' practical experience. Agricultural colleges are located throughout the UK. Landex (an association of land-based colleges) includes a list of colleges on its website, www.landex.org.uk

There are a range of qualifications available at different levels. Those relevant to farm managers are likely to include:

  • Diploma in environmental and land-based studies
  • Level 3 Diploma in agriculture
  • BTEC Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in agriculture
  • Higher National diploma/Certificate (HND/HNC) or a foundation degree in agriculture or a related subject, for which applicants usually need a minimum of three to four GCSEs (A*-C) plus one A level
  • a degree in agriculture or a related subject, for which applicants usually need at least two A level grades, with chemistry and biology often required or preferred, plus five GCSEs (A*-C)
  • postgraduate courses, which require a relevant first degree (or sometimes only HNC/HND) together with relevant work experience
  • Fertiliser Advisors Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS).

Training

Most agricultural courses include training in technical agricultural production and may be followed by a specialist course in farm business management.

Farm managers need to keep up to date with the latest developments in agriculture, including the latest health and safety legislation. There are some agricultural colleges that offer continuing professional development (CPD) courses to enable professionals to enhance their skills, knowledge and careers.

Farm managers may attend short courses at agricultural colleges or study by distance learning to increase or update their skills. There are also many farm walks and seminars that take place to address seasonal farming issues.

It may also be possible to study at postgraduate level.

Getting on

Large farms offer promotion possibilities and there may be opportunities to specialise in areas such as dairy farming. It is common for farm managers to move around the country to gain experience.

Experienced farm managers may move into other work, such as technical sales, consultancy and teaching, or work as an agricultural adviser.

Some successful farm managers may be responsible for overseeing the work of several farms, all specialising in different aspects of farming.

It may also be possible to work with private companies, consultancies and co-operatives that offer farm management services.

There may be some opportunities to work abroad.

Further information

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), 08459 335577. Website: www.defra.gov.uk

Fertiliser Advisors Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS), 34 St John Street, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 1GH. 01335 343945. Website www.factsinfo.org.uk

Land Based Colleges Aspiring to Excellence (Landex). Website: www.landex.org.uk

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry CV8 2LG. 0845 707 8007. Websites: www.lantra.co.uk, www.lantracoursefinder.co.uk and, for careers in the environmental and land-based industries, www.afuturein.com

National Farmers' Union (NFU), Agriculture House, Stoneleigh Park, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire CV8 2TZ. 024 7685 8500. Website: www.nfuonline.com

National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs (NFYFC), YFC Centre, 10th Street, Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2LG. 024 7685 7200. Website: www.nfyfc.org.uk

Soil Association, South Plaza, Marlborough Street, Bristol BS1 3NX. 0117 314 5000. Website: www.soilassociation.org

 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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