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Continuing Barnowl Jerseys’ winning ways

With a wealth of showing successes, Andrew Reader is looking to continue the Barnowl Jersey stud’s winning ways and his father Charles’ legacy while retaining a commercial ethos. Laura Bowyer reports.

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Andrew and Heidi Reader
Andrew and Heidi Reader

On entering the workshop at Cloisters Farm, Evenley, Northamptonshire, 34 years of showing success can be seen in the form of 4,000 rosettes and 140 sashes framed and mounted on the walls.


Although the only UK herd to have bred an EX97 Jersey – Barnowl Fanfare which was shown from 1988 to 1997, winning both the Royal Show and the 1992 World Jersey Conference – the Barnowl Jersey Stud has a mentality of milk production first, then the showring.


With multiple wins on the national and international stages, the Barnowl herd has, over time, been a force to be reckoned with in the showring and although the Reader family does not show to the extent they once did when attending 15 shows per year, they still retain top-class genetics, with a commercial ethos and cows with a willingness to milk.


It was when foot-and-mouth struck and all shows were cancelled in 2001 that Charles Reader says he found he did not miss exhibiting, and with it being such a costly and time consuming occupation and not having any staff, he wound down.


After working away from home for some time as a landscaper and lorry driver, his son Andrew has now been at home for two-and-half years and hopes to rekindle their showing enthusiasm. Currently, the Reader family exhibits at Norfolk, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Nottinghamshire, Berkshire and Blakesley shows.

 


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Since Andrew joined the business full-time they have increased the milking herd from 70 to 90, with a group of 20 purchased from Priestcar Jerseys, Yorkshire, and some additional purchases at dispersal sales in late 2014.


The farm is also home to the Cidamon herd owned by Pat Rosser and some of the Moonshine and Bluemoon herds owned by Ben Etteridge and nephew Joshua.


Charles says: “When I was younger, it was instilled in to me to buy quantity rather than quality. But when I established my own herd, I wanted decent cows.


“I have never bought cows to show them, they have always been purchased to do a job. Now we are a predominately closed herd, although we might buy a female to bring in a new family.

 

Farm facts

  • 44.5ha (110 acres) owner-occupied ground
  • Rent an extra 24ha (60 acres)
  • All land is grassland

“We had to develop the breeding ourselves and improve the herd from within, not by paying fancy money for stock. There has not been any outside money involved. When we moved here 34 years ago, the cows bought the farm from their production.”


Now there are 10 families at the Barnowl Stud, with the Victoria family making up 25 per cent of the herd.


Andrew says: “They are good, big, powerful, milky cows, although they may not be the best on milk solids.”


At present the herd has 20 excellent scored cows and 44 very goods.


Targeting for a 7,000kg production average, they are currently hitting 6,700kg-7,000kg at just short of 6 per cent fat and more than 4 per cent protein. The farm’s main outlet for milk is Davis and Parsons, a Channel Island milk specialist buyer, and they currently receive 32ppl.

 

Charles says: “Last year, with the milk price, we aimed to keep solids up and ran at a lower yield of 6,500kg, giving the cows a little less grub.”


The herd calves all-year-round and is relatively young, with 25-30 per cent of the herd being heifers.


The family has been selling freshly-calved heifers privately and is now looking to see how they get on in the sale ring, with a consignment soon going to Exeter market. If selling stock, the Readers say they encourage prospective buyers to visit the farm to view the stock.


A home-bred bull is kept each year for use on the heifers, and currently there are two on-farm – Barnowl Bravisimo, scored Ex90, and Barnowl Sherpa, both taken from their strongest female lines.

 

head up pic

Andrew says: “Our bull calf outlet has not been able to continue to take these calves and with planning the expansion of the farm shop we have decided to run our bull calves on to supply rose veal through a local butcher, with the aim to take them to around nine months of age.”


The top 50 per cent of cows in terms of conformation and production are served with AI and if they come back on heat will either be given a second chance with semen, or put to the bull. The bottom 25 per cent of the herd goes to British Blue semen.


Andrew says: “The breed is very easy calving and it is unusual for us to use a calving ratchet, although we will use ropes.”

 

With a grazing platform of 24 hectares (60 acres), herd size is dictated by acreage and buildings. With 105 in the milking herd, 90 cows are put through the 10:10 Herringbone parlour at any one time.


A grass silage TMR is fed, and although maize was once grown on-farm it is not any longer, with Andrew describing maize as an expensive and difficult crop to grow on their land.


Filling the clamp is 700-800 tonnes of grass and anything else is baled for the heifers in winter, which they try to keep out for as long as possible. Although until three years ago all grass was made into bales before the tarmac-floored clamp was built.


With the farm on a limestone brash, Andrew says you cannot autumn drill grass. They are proactively re-seeding their grassland, using a direct under-sowing method.


Monitoring for Johne’s, they say this is at a fairly negligible level in the herd. BVD and lepto are vaccinated against and Charles says the herd is negative to both leptospirosis and IBR.

Major show highlights over the years

  • Won the World Jersey Conference in 1992 and people’s champion
  • Supreme champion at the Dairy Event – the third Jersey in history to win
  • Four Royal Show champions: 1985, 1992, 1995, 2004
  • Three times Burke Trophy winners: 1981, 1990, 1993, reserve 1999, and 2017
  • Only Jersey breeders to have a cow in both the Royal Welsh and Royal Show winning pair with Barnowl Wizards Fantasy in 1991
  • Owners and winners of all six animals for the Morrison Trophy team of six at the Dairy Event in 1990, being the only herd of any breed to achieve this feat

Shop development

In September 2016, the farm started selling raw milk and it has been in ‘full swing’ since January. Bottling takes places everyday on-farm and currently 50-100 litres are sold each day, all going through shop, while 50-60 pots of cream are sold each week.


The shop also stocks honey, jams, preserves, chutneys, eggs, soft fruit and any other available local produce. Cream and skim is also sold in this way.


The Readers do not want to lose focus of the standard of cows on-farm and hope through showing they can promote the farm shop, although the farm’s main over-riding drive will always be milk production.


They hope to develop this revenue stream in the future, driven by Andrew and his wife Heidi, with the possibility of setting up a cafe alongside it. They are soon to put up a new building to accommodate a larger shop and dairy processing plant.

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