NMR and RABDF have named six dairy businesses as finalists in this year’s Gold Cup. They will compete for the industry’s top award which will be presented at the Livestock Show, NEC on Tuesday September 4.
The six herds, who fought off competition from 454 qualifying herds in this year’s Gold Cup are:
- Lawrie Bros, Sandyford, Monkton, Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland
- David and Louise Hodgson, Wormanby Farm, Burgh by Sands, Carlisle
- Mike, Shan, Paul and Steve Miller, Greville Hall Farm, Evesham, Worcestershire
- Neil Christensen, Steanbow Farms, Pilton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
- Tim Gue, Huddlestone Farm, Horsham Road, Steyning, West Sussex
- Matthew Rowe, Great Tredinnick Farm, Two Waters Foot, Liskeard, Cornwall
Gilmour and Kevin Lawrie
Starting in the north, Gilmour Lawrie took on the farm at Monkton, Ayr after the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic. Today half the 240 Brieryside cows are red-and-white with the remainder pure Ayrshire. Now farming with his son Kevin and in partnership with his brother Jim, there are plans to increase numbers to 300 cows along with forage and cereal cropping of the 445 hectares.
To accommodate this expansion the cow housing is being extended with a new building providing 50 more cubicles and housing a new rapid-exit milking parlour with heat detectors and other management aids to help improve herd fertility.
Fundamental to the herd’s breeding policy is retaining the attributes of the Ayrshire, with milk quality and longevity being vital characteristics. Of the herd, 52% have had four or more lactations.
The herd’s average for the Gold Cup qualifying year ending September 2011 was 9359kg of milk at 4% fat and 3.37% protein on three times-a-day milking. Cell count averaged 121,000 cells/ml. Milk is sold at a premium to First Milk in Girvan on a Nestle contract which goes to make chocolate crumb to coat Kit-Kat biscuits.
David and Harry HodgsonDavid and Louise Hodgson’s 145-cow Wormanby Holstein herd is based at Burgh by Sands in Cumbria. Cows here are bred for longevity which means that as well as milk sales from their 145 milkers, the Hodgsons have up to 40 newly calved heifers for sale annually along with breeding bulls, amounting to a third of the business’ gross income.
David and his father Harry currently manage the cattle themselves, with some relief help, on the 122 hectares. Now, with a new cubicle house for 105 cows, most of the milking herd is housed year-round. Deep soft sand is used for bedding which is proving far cheaper than straw. And the new housing has also helped to lift production by 500kg a cow with only six cases of mastitis in the past 12 months since they started using the building.
For the qualifying Gold Cup year ending September 2011 the herd averaged 10,761kg of milk at 3.76% fat and 3.12% protein on twice a day milking. The current cell count is 128,000/ml with a Bactoscan of 23. Milk is sold to Arla on a liquid contract.
Steve and Paul MillerEvesham producers, Mike and Shan Miller and sons Paul and Steven run the 320-cow Shanael herd on the 336 hectare tenanted unit.
Management of the farm is overseen by Mike, with Shan looking after the calves and accounts and Steve and Paul taking on cropping and cows respectively.
During the past 12 months they have increased herd size and taken on more land. And they have also stepped up fertility and health management. By the end of 2012 they should be ‘fully stocked’ with 350 cows.
Paul is pleased to see an improvement in calving interval to the current 410 days following improvements in heat detection and routine vet visits to every two weeks, monitoring individual cows and trends through InterHerd.
NMR annual average production for the Gold Cup qualifying year ending September 2011 is 12,199kg of milk, 535kg higher than the previous year, at 3.6% fat and 3.08% protein on three times-a-day milking. Milk is sold to Cotteswold Dairy in Tewkesbury under a liquid contract.
Neil and Michael ChristensenNeil Christensen from Somerset milks 517 Holstein cows at Steanbow Farms, Somerset, where he farms in partnership with his father Finn and his brother Michael.
With 200ha of pasture taken up by the famous Glastonbury Festival each summer, the family made a drastic change to the farm strategy about five years ago. They opted to house the cows all year round. Heifers remain on the farm for their first year, and are contract reared for the second year, before calving at just over two years old.
Changes were also made to the dry cow ration to combat high potassium levels in the grass.
Investment in a slurry store and calving buildings has improved the working of the unit. Now they are aiming to improve milk production from forage and driving for more efficiency by doing everything a little bit better.
Since moving the cows indoors they have paid close attention to cow comfort. They mobility score once a week, trim the cows’ feet three times a year, and foot dip them after every evening milking.
Production in the qualifying year to September 2011 for the herd averaged 10,521kg of milk at 3.78% fat and 3.13% protein on three times a day milking. Cell counts averaged 104,000 cells/ml and the calving interval stands at 387 days. Milk is sold on Dairy Crest’s Sainsburys contract.
Tim GueTim and Marion Gue from West Sussex manage the Huddlestone pedigree herd, based at Steyning with help from four full-time staff, including two herd managers.
The Gues place great importance on team management and believe that in order to run such a large herd, a good team and a sound management system, have to be in place. Day-to-day tasks are split between his two herd managers. One focuses on health management, including mastitis, and calving. The other is charged with foot trimming and record keeping. Fertility is a vital area of herd management and benefits from having both their eyes on the ball – they share responsibility here.
The herd calves from August through to April and is fed a TMR, formulated by Marion, all year round. Average production stands at 11,058kg of milk – around 250 kg per cow more than in 2011 – at 3.82% butterfat and 3.12% protein on three-times-a-day milking. Average cell count for the year ending September 2011 was 117,000 cells/ml with a herd PLI of 77 – one of the highest among this year’s Gold Cup finalists. Milk is sold to Tesco via Arla.
Matthew RoweMatthew Rowe from Cornwall milks 360 cows in partnership with his parents at Tredinnick Farms near Liskeard. The 228-hectare unit adjoins Bodmin Moor, creating challenges for pasture management.
In 2011 they built a new shed for 150 cows, to improve welfare and create space to expand into. The plan is to increase cow numbers to 400 by the end of 2012.
The Holstein herd averages between 3.2and four lactations. In the Gold Cup qualifying year, ending September 2011, they averaged 8,956kg of milk at 4.13% fat and 3.22% protein on twice a day milking with a cell count of 189,000 cells/ml and Bactoscan of 30.
The aim is to increase yields to between 9500 and 10,000kg during the next 12 to 18 months, mainly through improving cow health and longevity. Matthew also wants to increase milk from forage which is currently at about 2500litres.
Cows at Tredinnick calve all year round and split the herd into three groups, comprising dry cows, heifers and older cows.
The six NMR/RABDF Gold Cup finalists will be judged by David Cotton, Chairman, RABDF, Bryan Thomas, ex-director, NMR, and 2009 Gold Cup winner Geoff Spence.
The winner of the NMR/RABDF Gold Cup 2012 will be announced at the Dairy Event, NEC on Tuesday September 4 on the NMR stand at 4.30pm along with the winner of the NMR Silver Salver to the runner up and the Chris May Memorial Salver, which will be awarded to the Gold Cup qualifying herd with the highest average lifetime daily yield.
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