Women in Dairy Conference to focus on diversity and sustainability

Elizabeth Stockdale, head of agronomy research at NIAB, will discuss the importance of an on-farm toolkit to measure soil health
Elizabeth Stockdale, head of agronomy research at NIAB, will discuss the importance of an on-farm toolkit to measure soil health

This year’s Women in Dairy Conference, taking place at Churchfields Farm, Droitwich on 27 September, is set to focus on driving diversity and sustainability.

Elizabeth Stockdale

Elizabeth Stockdale, head of agronomy research at NIAB, will discuss the importance of an on-farm toolkit to measure soil health, and how she is working with farmers to ensure its benefits are clear.

She has over 25 years’ experience of research and knowledge exchange in soil management, nutrient cycling and environmental impact.

Elizabeth is well placed when it comes to giving information on good soil husbandry, having recently led the UK farmer-levy funded Soil Biology and Soil Health Partnership.

The range of the soil’s inherent properties such as texture, depth and stoniness contribute to the soil character, which determines both grass potential and many environmental risks for any site.

It is interventions through fertiliser, manures, drainage, grazing management, species and mixture choice that then interact to determine the health of the soil.

Between 2017 and 2022, AHDB funding allowed a five-year research trial to take place, bringing together current academic and industry knowledge to share with farmers.

Designed to help farmers maintain and improve the productivity of their system, through better understanding of their soil, it helped to develop and validate indicators of soil biology and health.

Working closely with farmers, growers and advisors, the trial was able to use the knowledge and experience of these individuals, to compile accessible guidance and tools to help improve soil health.

Elizabeth’s session will outline how a combination of in-field and laboratory measures are included in the Soil Health Scorecard – an excel based tool – to give a simple soil health check-up using a traffic light system.

These results help identify the key constraints to production and possible routes to soil improvement.

She hopes to highlight in her session, how it is not possible to replace good soil husbandry with inputs, with the best practice being site and season specific, and each action informed by an observation.

Navaratnam Partheeban

Have you ever thought about diversity in agriculture? Or is it something that hasn’t really crossed your mind?

You wouldn’t be in the minority if the latter rings true, that’s according to Navaratnam Partheeban (Theeb), a farm animal veterinary surgeon and co-founder of the British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society.

He says the agricultural and dairy sector is the least diverse of its type in the UK when it comes to people.

Working as Regional Head of Farm for IVC Evidensia, Theeb sees first-hand the experience of those from minority backgrounds when it comes to working in the industry.

He has also gained knowledge from his role as principal investigator into a study researching the experiences of racism and its impact on the mental wellbeing of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people working or studying in the UK veterinary sector.

As a Nuffield Scholar and a Director of Oxford Farming Conference he is well placed when it comes to educating people on the requirement to embrace diversity, equality and inclusion and the necessity surrounding this if the sector is to increase its understanding, recruitment and retention of people.

He will discuss the society we are part of and share ideas on how we can work to action solutions when it comes to improving participation from a wider pool of people in the sector.

From the work done as part of his Nuffield and from the knowledge he has garnered in his charity – The British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society, his work with outreach schemes and from research he has conducted, he will look to share insights of his first-hand experience of marginalisation and ways it can be reduced.

Whilst diversity and inclusion are important, Theeb hopes to highlight how to impact everybody positively, it takes leadership to push the right ideas forward but in addition to this, as a sector, we need to remember we all have moral, legal and economic reasons to achieve these inclusion goals.

As the recipient of an OBE for his services to inclusion, Theeb wants everyone to realise this is a journey, one that we all have to start somewhere, whilst remembering there is also no set end point.

Sophie Gregory and Debbie Wilkins

Farming in Dorset on a 360 cow, organic dairy farm, alongside her husband Tom, Sophie Gregory has become somewhat of a household name in the sector.

After winning the Dairy industry Woman of the Year Award in 2021 we have invited her to this year’s conference, where she will speak alongside Debbie Wilkins, who has a passion for regenerative practices, and farms at Norton Court Farm in the Severn Vale, in Gloucestershire.

Joining forces for the conference they will be explaining their ‘roots’ into dairy farming and looking at the route to dairying differently, with a short presentation each, followed by a joint panel discussion chaired by Karen Halton.

Talking about their pathways into the industry and the highs and lows they have encountered they will be hoping to inspire others when it comes to embarking on their career journeys.

In addition to the continued principal sponsorship from HSBC UK, thanks must go to additional conference sponsors Dalton Tags, ForFarmers, KW Feeds, Lely and Vet Partners for their support of the event.


The Dairy Industry Woman of the Year Award winner will be announced at the end of the conference, sponsored by HSBC UK.

Presented to someone who demonstrates the Women in Dairy core values – connect, share, inspire – in their everyday activity, the award recognises the contribution of individuals to the sector.

This year’s finalists are Sarah Devon, an area field manager for NMR (and relief milk recorder!), a regular milker on a dairy herd of 135 and volunteer facilitator for Devon Women in Dairy; Hannah Priest, a 4th generation farmer, with an influential Instagram following and Emma Hunt, first generation dairy farmer, operating a micro dairy in Hampshire.

Tickets are £60 (+VAT and booking fee) with concessions in place for Women in Dairy members and can be booked online at www.womenindairy.co.uk