Heading that list is one of last year’s Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year finalists, Peter Jack of Blandford Forum, Dorset.
Mr Jack, who farms in partnership with his wife Margaret at Normandy Farm is a Crown Estate tenant who sells his milk on a Waitrose contract with an average yield of 11,854kg at 3.84% butterfat and 3.04% protein from his 155-cow herd.
Believing that breeding for commercial traits will lead to good yields, he has taken the approach of not actively breeding for high milk volumes for the past five years. “I’m looking for functional cows, a balance of type and production. And I need size too, this ensures cows have plenty of capacity for forage and milk from forage currently stands at 2987 litres.”
Another familiar face is former Farmers Weekly Farmer Focus contributor Tim Gue. Running 350 Holstein cows under the Huddlestone prefix, Mr Gue manages the herd with help from four full time staff, including herd manager Peter Blocksidge and his assistant Anthony Trigwell.
For the recording year ended September 2006, the herd had an average yield of 10,142kg at 3.99% butterfat and 3.12% protein.
Increasingly, Mr Gue is also keen to enhance the farm’s environmental credentials and says wildlife numbers and diversity are improving year on year.
Dorchester-based Nick Cobb is the next face FW readers will recognise, having featured in several articles before.
With the largest herd of the finalists at 636 cows, Mr Cobb sells milk to Dairy Crest, with a proportion going on a Marks & Spencer contract. The herd’s replacement rate is 22% and heifers are calved at 24.5 months old to ensure maximum efficiency is gained from the herd.
Recent developments have seen a new dairy unit established at West Chaldon Farm where cows are housed in facilities designed to maximise comfort and ease of management.
Up next is Gold Cup 2006 runner up, William Ley of Thuborough Holsteins. The 188 cows in this pedigree herd average 10,600kg of milk at 4.02% butterfat and 3.34% protein produced for Dairy Crest.
Expansion is also high on the agenda, with new housing planned to be finished later this year, allowing another 50 cows to be added to the herd. But expansion won’t see just any cows grace the new facilities, with breeding decisions carefully thought through and sires sourced from all over the world, including New Zealand, the USA and Canada, with UK-bred sires also featuring prominently.
The one name less familiar to readers will be Mark Heywood, managing director of Haresfield Farms, Haresfield, Gloucestershire. But as a director of Dairy Farmers of Britain, Mr Heywood is certainly no shrinking violet.
The company’s 250-cow Holstein herd averages a £1242 margin over concentrate and a calving interval of 409 days. Cows average a yield of 10,491kg with impressive compenent values of 4.41% butterfat and 3.18% protein on twice a day milking.
Having previously bred solely on index, Mr Heywood, under the influence of herd manager Chris Stone, has moved towards a more type-base approach, particularly focusing on udders, legs and feet.
As 2005 and 2006 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup finalists and Lily Hill Cup winners, Ian MacAlpine and his wife, Sally, and their 200-cow Ribblesdale Jersey herd are no strangers to the competition.
Cows are managed to achieve a target yield of 6500kg, with rolling average currently standing at 6200kg a cow at 6% butterfat and 4% protein. Based on his own figures, Mr MacAlpine reckons Holstiens would need to produce 12,000-13,000kg to compare to the Jerseys.Bulls are selected for calving ease and this has helped improve fertility, with calving interval currently running at between 365 and 370 days.