Meet this year’s NMR/RABDF Gold Cup competition, which include five Holstein herds and one cross-bred herd from across Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
The Haltons run an all-year-round-calving 560-strong herd of three-way-cross Holstein Montbeliarde cows.
Herd average yield stands at 10,300 litres of milk, at 3.9 per cent butterfat and 3.3 per cent protein, with a somatic cell count of 125,000 cells/ml. Calving interval is 373 days.
They started with 350 commercial Holsteins and Mr Halton’s interest in cross-breeding began eight years ago.
The aim is to breed strong, healthy cows with good longevity. He says: “We want a healthy low-maintenance cow that looks after herself.”
They also took advantage of their urban position two years ago, when they began direct sales of raw milk from a vending machine at the farm gate.
Brothers John and Stuart Harvey and their mother Margaret run a 335-cow herd, averaging 13,662kg milk, at 3.85 per cent butterfat and 3.18 per cent protein, on three-times-a-day milking (year ending September 2017).
The herd is permanently housed, except for one group of about 100 mid-lactation cows, which is turned out to graze at the end of May if conditions are suitable. The unit’s 260-head of youngstock also graze during summer.
The herd is fed a TMR, offering maintenance plus 36 litres, and individual cows are topped up to yield in the parlour.
Cows and heifers calve all-year-round to ensure a level supply of milk for buyer Lactalis.
The Montgomery family, running a 180-cow pedigree Holstein autumn-calving herd, bought their first 100 cows from a neighbouring producer and the cows were walked half a mile up the road to their unit on September 5, 2008.
The herd has been closed for the past eight years and is averaging 10,074kg milk, at 3.93 per cent butterfat and 3.22 per cent protein. Somatic cell count is 136,000 cells/ml and the herd’s calving interval is 375 days.
Sires are selected using profitable lifetime index, as well as butterfat and protein yields.
Stephen says: “I am not looking to breed large cows, but they must be robust and balanced.”
Metcalfe Farms is owned and run by brothers David, Brian and Philip Metcalfe.
David’s responsibilities include growing crops and looking after finances, Brian runs the haulage business and Philip manages the dairy.
A new parlour was installed two years ago, as well as additional cow accommodation. This allowed the business to increase the size of the herd from 900 to 1,300 cows in just two years.
The Holstein herd averaged 9,136kg milk, at 3.89 per cent butterfat and 3.19 per cent protein (year ending September 2017). Somatic cell count (SCC) is 155,000 cells/ml and calving interval was 423 days.
This interval is now 403 days, yields have increased to 10,800kg at 4 per cent fat and 3.25 per cent protein with a reduction in SCC. This is after the herd expansion and cows are now settled in.
Cows are housed all-year-round and calving pattern is spread throughout the year to provide a level supply of milk.
Stowell Farms looks after the agricultural enterprises on the family-owned 1,100-hectare (2,718-acre) Stowell Estate.
The livestock enterprise includes a 515-cow Holstein herd, managed on a unit built in 2011, which allowed for expansion from 140 milkers.
An anaerobic digestion plant was also built on the site to process arable crops from the estate and the slurry produced by cows.
Average yields for this year-round-calving herd for the Gold Cup qualifying year to September 2018 was 10,052kg milk, at 3.48 per cent butterfat and 3.05 per cent protein.
Somatic cell count averaged 165,000 cells/ml with a 397-day calving interval.
Farm manager Gavin Davies and herd manager Bryn Moore attribute improvements in herd performance to a team effort.
Mr Moore says: “It is not down to one individual, but to the team, including our vet and nutritionist.”
The 270-cow Bilsrow herd is year-round-calving and averaged 11,042kg milk, at 4.37 per cent butterfat and 3.16 per cent protein, for the year ending September 2017.
Cows graze for a minimum of 150 days a year, from early May to mid-October, to meet milk buyer Pakeeza Dairy’s ‘free-range’ criteria, which commands a premium.
The Tomlinsons are selling more freshly calved heifers, about 100-head/year, which is 30 per cent more than 2017.
Mr Tomlinson says: “We have been using sexed semen for a while and it is now used across all maiden heifers. This means we have more surplus heifers to sell.”
The couple plans to invest in a new milking parlour and slurry handling system in the future.