The key to success and happiness on a dairy farm can be measured in different ways, but for Jonathan Rider of Horton House, Wiltshire, the key is simplicity.
His system of running 500 crossbred cows with 600 followers on a once-a-day milking system is geared to his likes and most importantly his limitations.
“Our objective is to make profit consistently from a sustainable organic farm.
“This means a 10-month grazing period without any reliance on concentrates, a seven-week calving pattern, a 15% replacement rate and conception rate at 80% from natural service.”
Throughout his farming career he has practiced a simple and flexible approach, running a low-labour unit and finding time for his young family.
“The benefits of once-a-day milking include cows with higher condition scores, a reduction in lameness, better use of grazing time, improved fertility and minimal stress.”
But once-a-day milking might not be the answer for every farmer, because at the opposite end of the scale, Norfolk-based Ken Proctor believes high yields from extreme Holstein cows have proved the only possible way for his Airfield pedigree herd.
The 11,300kg-yielding 250-cow herd is mainly housed because of poor grazing and ample straw availability.
“Our vast buildings have large passageways with plenty of space to encourage free movement within the straw-bedded cubicles.”
The pedigree herd, which has had great show success, prides itself on breeding top-quality, high-yielding cows with a wide chest, high rear udders, good bone structure and sound legs and feet.”
And with 50 cows in the herd classified excellent, the extreme show cow which many producers love to hate is what Mr Proctor says milking is all about.
“I have a dedicated family workforce who enjoy milking and showing and nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing a homebred cow which yields 17,000kg take a championship spot at a show.”