John Whitby farms 250ha (617 acres) in partnership with his brother stephen and sister in-law, Lilles.

The farm carries a herd of 185 pedigree jerseys and arable land farmed on a contract basis.


Early November has seen satisfying cow performance, with difficult targets set last May for yield, butterfat, protein and margins all now exceeded.
Butterfat results are particularly pleasing after the use of a long-chain fat at 0.35kg a head for the past three months.

Butterfats are now in the range of 5.8% to 6.0% raising the rolling average by 0.3%.

Fertility is also good, with 40 of 43 cows at a recent vet visit in calf.

But I have been involved with cows long enough to recognise that every upside often has a downside.

Producing higher butterfats has certainly generated more income in the short term, about 100% return on the cost of our long-chain fat inclusion.

But this must be measured against a falling EU butter market and not inconsiderable quota implications.

The hugely skewed 0.18% conversion factor has always disadvantaged higher fat production, for example.

In the brave new world of producing milk at rock bottom prices, where the production of and market for it seems to be below quota, at least the price constraint for quota for active producers may not be so great.

All we need now is for the efforts of the dairy firms who are trying to reinvigorate the market to reap their rewards.

As for cow performance, it remains to be seen whether these results can be maintained.

But that’s all the more reason to have these targets, and no reason at all why we shouldn’t applaud our staff, vet, nutritionist and ourselves when things go well.