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Meet the UK dairy businesses battling it out for this year's Gold Cup

Six dairy businesses in the UK have been named as finalists in the 2019 NMR RABDF Gold Cup competition. Farmers Guardian profiles each of the farms...

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Meet the UK dairy businesses that are battling it out for this year's Gold Cup


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'When looking at patterns of mastitis levels environment management is key''When looking at patterns of mastitis levels environment management is key'

STOWELL FARMS - WEST STOWELL, WILTSHIRE

STOWELL FARMS - WEST STOWELL, WILTSHIRE

FOR the second year in a row, the outstanding achievements of Stowell Farms have been nationally recognised.

 

A major investment was made in the dairy enterprise in 2011 when a new unit was constructed with a view to significantly expanding the 140-cow herd.

 

Today, the 526-cow herd is milked three times-a-day through a 38-point internal rotary parlour.

 

Improvements in fertility see calving index standing at 387 days.

 

The herd’s manager Bryn Moore says: “This index has been achieved by improvements in conception rate and an increasing pregnancy rate. The latter has increased from 18 per cent to 27 per cent, with a current 12-month rolling average of 25 per cent.”

 

Valued

 

Mr Moore says the team at Stowell is the business’ most important asset and making staff feel valued and appreciated is key to this.

 

Looking ahead, genomic testing will be used to help advance health and productivity and the plan is to take cow numbers to 680.

ELIZABETH BIRKETT - ROOKHAYE FARM, BOWERCHALKE, SALISBURY

ELIZABETH BIRKETT - ROOKHAYE FARM, BOWERCHALKE, SALISBURY

RETURNING to the family farm in 2000, Liz Birkett has focused on strengthening the farm business.

 

The 153-cow herd is grazed from mid-April until the end of July and a buffer total mixed ration is also fed to ensure maintenance and milk yield requirements are met.

 

The herd averages 10,398kg of milk at 3.88 per cent fat and 3.24 per cent protein on twice-a-day milking with a somatic cell count of 112,000 cells/ml.

 

Ms Birkett says: “Genetics has played a vital role in improving our herd and it is an area where we have invested heavily in the past few years.

 

“We select bulls on Profitable Lifetime Index – we set a minimum of £500 – as well as feet and legs, udder traits, fertility and lifespan. Maiden heifers are served on average at 15 months old, with the first two services to sexed Holstein semen.”

 

Potential

 

Ms Birkett says: “We are also just seeing the results from genomic testing, which we started in January 2018. This has offered us the potential to accelerate the herd’s rate of genetic gain and to boost performance. I am excited to see how they will perform compared to their cohorts.”

ROBERT SLOAN - FIRM OF BRYCE SLOAN, DARNLAW FARM, AUCHINLECK, AYRSHIRE

ROBERT SLOAN - FIRM OF BRYCE SLOAN, DARNLAW FARM, AUCHINLECK, AYRSHIRE

ROBERT Sloan runs the 180-cow Townlaw Holstein herd at Darnlaw Farm, Auchinleck, Ayr, with his parents Bryce and Anne. Robert’s wife Emma has been running the farm’s accounts since the birth of their son Will in early 2018.

 

The herd has been based at Darnlaw for more than 40 years and, in 2011, the decision was made to switch to robotic milking in a new purpose-built shed on a greenfield site.

 

The average yield for the herd, which is housed all year and milked through three robots, is 11,980kg at 3.99 per cent butterfat and 3.13 per cent protein with a somatic cell count (SCC) of 116,000/ml.

 

In 2016 they took the opportunity to fulfill a specialist Jersey milk contract from milk buyer Graham’s Dairy and established Darnlaw Jerseys.

 

This herd of 60 cows is run as a separate herd and milked twice a day through the original parlour.

 

The Jersey herd, which grazes during summer, averages 7,115kg/cow at 6.02 per cent fat, 4.01 per cent protein and an somatic cell count of 79,000/ml.

 

Management

 

Despite running two herds with different management styles, the Sloans’ priority is cattle health, welfare and longevity.

 

All cattle are bred to maintain and improve functional type. Priority is also given to positive components, fertility indexes and high sire conception rate figures.

A. HARVEY - DRUM FARM, BEESWING, DUMFRIES

A. HARVEY - DRUM FARM, BEESWING, DUMFRIES

THE focus for brothers John and Stuart Harvey and their mother Margaret has always been on healthy, high production cows, optimising cow comfort, nutrition, health and welfare.

 

This has enabled the herd to produce high levels of milk solids, 960kg last year, with an average yield of 13,643kg of milk, at 3.8 per cent fat and 3.13 per cent protein with a cell count of 72,000 cells/ml on three times-a-day milking.

 

The 350-cow pedigree Killywhan herd is high yielding and also robust, with a lifetime daily yield for the herd of more than 20kg per day.

 

Maintenance

 

The milking herd’s total mixed ration (TMR) provides maintenance plus 36 litres and individual cows are topped up to yield with a 15 per cent protein concentrate.

 

Stuart says: “The TMR is silagebased with wholecrop wheat also included. During the past couple of years, we have also started growing field beans as an alternative protein to reduce our reliance on imported soya meal through the winter.”

 

Emphasis is placed on rearing replacement heifers to achieve an average age at first calving of 24 months old and 90 per cent go on to calve a second time.

 

John says: “We stopped using conventional black and white semen on the cows three years ago and switched to mostly Aberdeen-Angus, only serving the top 10 per cent of cows and 90 per cent of maiden heifers with sexed black-and-white semen.”

BECCI BERRY - BRIMSTONE FARM, COLESHILL, SWINDON

BECCI BERRY - BRIMSTONE FARM, COLESHILL, SWINDON

UNTIL 2011, Becci worked in equine PR, but the tragic death of her husband, Richard, resulted in her stepping in to manage the family farm.

 

Farming in partnership with her in-laws, Michael and Mary Berry, Becci is the managing partner of the 356-hectare (880-acre) National Trust farm, working closely with her team – herdswoman Gillian Maconochie and two tractor drivers/stockmen.

 

The herd totals 166 crossbreds with an average yield of 8,824 litres of milk at 3.81 per cent butterfat and 3.27 per cent protein, on twice-a-day milking.

 

Cell count is 176,000 cells/ml. The farm formerly ran a Friesian herd, but gradually moved to Holstein bloodlines to increase milk production.

 

Before Richard’s death, he had introduced a crossbreeding programme with the aim of reducing cow stature, as well as improving health traits and longevity using Scandinavian Reds, Montbeliarde and Brown Swiss.

 

Fertility

 

Becci says: “The cross-breds are much easier to manage and performance has not been compromised. Fertility figures reflect this. We have a pregnancy rate of 29 per cent and run at two services per pregnancy. Replacement rate is 22 per cent, which illustrates the improved longevity of the herd.”

 

Over the past couple of years a paddock grazing system has been introduced, to ensure grass is better used.

ANDREW KING - BARRINGTON ORGANIC PARTNERSHIP, BARRINGTON, ILMINSTER

ANDREW KING - BARRINGTON ORGANIC PARTNERSHIP, BARRINGTON, ILMINSTER

ANDREW and Rosemary King started the Barrington Organic Partnership in 2008 when they had the opportunity to take on the 220 hectares (544 acres) at Thong Dairy Farm, Ilminster.

 

Andy says the first challenge was to build a more efficient and uniform herd of Friesian-type cows.

 

Today, the Barrington team manages a herd of 243 cows, averaging 7,882kg of milk at 3.75 per cent fat, 3.17 per cent protein and a cell count of 74,000 cells/ml on twice-a-day milking.

 

Replacements

 

The herd has been closed for the past seven years and Andy says by breeding their own replacements they can achieve a herd which is more uniform and consistent.

 

Andy adds it is the day-to-day commitment of their staff which has helped make a success of the business. Richard Coombes joined the team in 2009 and is now farm manager.

 

The year-round calving herd grazes on clover-based swards from April to October, with red clover and Lucerne grown for their high palatability and protein content.

 

These are fed in total mixed ration (TMR) with minimal ‘balancing’ of the ration using a concentrate blend. The TMR, which also includes fodder beet and wholecrop spring barley, alongside grass silage, produces about 3,900 litres of milk per cow and is nudging on 50 per cent of total average milk production.

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