Six finalists are being judged for this year’s NMR/RABDF Gold Cup. For the first time in the competition’s history, finalists from three countries – Northern Ireland, Scotland and England – are competing for the dairy industry’s most comprehensive and prestigious award.
Newcomers to the final round include Iain McLean from Bushmills, Co Antrim. With his wife Joyce and father John, a sprightly 79-year old, Iain manages the 100-cow Holstein herd on 105ha along the country’s northern coastline.
The herd was placed seventh in Northern Ireland for combined weight of fat and protein for the year to the end of September 2007 with milk yield averaging 10,600kg at 4.23% fat and 3.10% protein.
A large proportion of the income at Priestland comes from the sale of surplus milkers and breeding bulls. There is a big demand for Priestland breeding bulls.
Also new to the final round are two Scottish herds. The first is run by Gregor Colquhoun, of Inverbervie in Kincardinshire, with his parents Blair and Judy. The 360-cow Bervie herd averaged 11,069kg of milk at 3.85% fat and 3.12% protein on three-times-a-day milking.
The milking cows are housed all the year round and 240 of the cows go through four Lely A3 robotic milkers and the remainder go through the original parlour. Thanks to the robotic milkers, the herd is run with the same amount of labour as when 200 cows were milked – and cows are now averaging 2.8 milkings a day.
Milk cell counts run at an average 90 with Bactoscans running at between five and 15 and the herd has been runner-up in milk buyer Wiseman’s milk quality awards for several years.
William Ballie from Thankerton, Biggar, is also among the finalists this year. Since establishing the herd 11 years ago with 50 commercial milkers, the Covington pedigree Holstein herd has been built up to total 200 cows averaging 10,500kg at 3.9% fat and 3.1% protein from three-times-a-day milking.
Improving herd health through management, feeding and preventative veterinary visits and placing particular emphasis on rearing heifer replacements is a priority on this 162ha farm, which William runs with his mother Janet with two full-time staff.
Calves are reared in hutches, which minimises the risk of pneumonia or scouring, and then from four months old they are housed in cubicles.
An investment in a new rapid-exit parlour in 2007 has given the opportunity to expand herd numbers further and during the next five years cow numbers are likely to increase to 300 with the possibility of pushing average yields to 11,500kg.
Moving south, Henry Lewis from Bromyard, Herefordshire, is also new to the Gold Cup finalist line-up. His pedigree Winslow herd has expanded by 100 cows since 2004, pushing cow numbers up to 430. It also recently became a flying herd.
Average yield for the year ending September 2007 is 11,962kg at 3.83% fat and 3.13% protein, from three-times-a-day milking. The SCC stood at 195,000cells/ml, with a calving interval of 415 days and a replacement rate of 27%.
Fertiliser use at the unit is also low – Henry works hard to make the best use of slurry as possible and most of it is injected into land at the 182ha unit using an umbilical system.
A total of six staff work at the unit, including a herdsman and an assistant herdsman. Also integral to herd management is NMR’s Herd Companion software.
The move to becoming a flying herd – for the past three years all replacement stock has been bought in – has reduced the number of TB reactors and ‘shut downs’ at the unit. It’s also made management easier, enabling the team to focus on the milking herd.
Third time finalist is Peter Jack who farms in partnership with his wife Margaret at Normandy Farm, near Blandford Forum in Dorset. His 197-cow pedigree herd averaged 10,951kg of milk at 4.18% fat and 3.09% protein for recording year ended September 2007, on twice-a-day milking. Milk is sold on a Waitrose contract.
The SCC stood at 108,000cells/ml, with a calving interval of 455 days and a replacement rate of 13.5%. Heifers are 26 months of age when they calve.
Peter has recently completed extensive expansion plans, pushing up herd numbers using home-bred replacements and building cubicle housing facilities for 215 cows.
Herd expansion was possible thanks to the herd’s dedicated, highly skilled and motivated staff. Peter says that, next to his wife, the staff is the most valuable asset on the unit. A great believer in team work and good communication, Peter ensures that the herd’s vet, nutritionist and consultant are also involved in regular herd meetings.
Nick Cobb from West Chaldon Farm, near Dorchester in Dorset is also through to the final round for a second time. His 700 Holsteins in his Chalclyffe herd averaged 11,687kg at 4.05% fat and 3.11% protein for recording year ended September 2007, on three-times-a-day milking. Milk is sold through Dairy Crest on a Marks and Spencer contract.
The SCC stood at 148,000cells/ml, with a calving interval of 390 days and a replacement rate of 21%. Heifers are 24.5 months of age when they calve.
Nick oversees the management of the herd, which is run on a day-to-day basis by a dedicated dairy team that includes a team of six milkers. He believes that the highly skilled team is vital to the herd’s – and business’ – success and says that every member has a pivotal and valued role within the team.
The herd is managed on a new unit designed to maximise cow comfort and all easy of management. Rubber matted collecting areas, sand-bedded cubicles and specific pre- and post-calving areas are just some of the housing’s features.
The winner of the 2008 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup will be announced at the Dairy Event, Stoneleigh, on September 17 at 4.30pm on the NMR stand.
Also, for the first time this year, a new award will be made to the qualifying herd with the highest lifetime daily yield (LDY). LDY identifies cows that are achieving their milk production potential efficiently across a number of lactations. It’s a simple calculation – the cow’s total milk production is divided by the total number of days the cow has been alive. It will therefore be higher in herds where heifers are calving at two years old and where good production is combined with good health, fertility and longevity.
The RABDF Council greatly applauds this innovation and a new award will be presented this year for this competition. The award to be known as the Chris May Memorial Trophy is in memory of the late Chris May who was a dairy farmer and keen Gold Cup enthusiast.
THE SIX NMR/RABDF GOLD CUP FINALISTS ARE:
Peter Jack, Blandford Forum, Dorset
Nick Cobb, Dorchester, Dorset
John & Iain McLean, Bushmills, Co Antrim
William Baillie, Thankerton, Biggar
Gregor Colquhoun, Inverbervie, Kincardinshire
Henry Lewis, Bromyard, Herefordshire
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