I came into agriculture from the high-tech sector where I write software and am technical director of several hosting companies I co-founded - hardly natural farmer material!
With no family farming background, on my first day working on a dairy farm I knew next to nothing about cows, but despite the steep learning curve I was surprised how much I loved working with them, and how much I enjoyed the job in general.
Each milestone was a proud moment, from mastering simple jobs like putting out straw with the loader tractor or filling the feeder wagon, to big firsts like calving a cow or milking on my own. I particularly enjoyed learning to milk. It's a precise, familiar routine at the heart of every dairy farm, and also a twice-a-day opportunity to spend time with the cows.
Farmers and herdsmen inevitably get to know their charges well. Being aware of each animal's character and normal cow behaviour, watching them is a great opportunity to spot cows that are ready to breed, check they're happy and healthy cows, and catch any problems early.
As time went on, I started going to local talks, events and courses, learning about foot-trimming, breeding and cattle health. Two years ago I was excited to take part in the inaugural Fresh Start Dairy Academy aimed at mentoring new entrants like me.
I am now in the final year of a Dairy Herd Management course at Reaseheath College in Cheshire. Dairy farming is a highly skilled job and I still have a quite a lot to learn, but I'm really enjoying working to grow that knowledge and experience.
Working with one of my dairy farmer friends we have recently set up an automated calf-rearing unit. A computerised feeder individually recognises each of our seventy young calves from special collars, mixing just the right amount of food for them whenever they visit. This helps us spot any behaviour changes earlier so we can make sure they all stay healthy and happy.
Most of my non-farming friends are amused and baffled by my change of direction, but as a newcomer I've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support and encouragement from friends and others within the industry.
Agriculture is a great sector to work in, and I'm loving taking my first steps as a farmer in my own right, always working towards milking my own herd one day.