The 10,500-litre herd carries 350 replacements calving at two years, but the sales market is volatile, says Jonathon Pickford. “We have to keep at it otherwise we will lose our reputation.”

Records show an average PIN value of £33 for the herd. The brothers breeding policy aims for 50t of milk in five lactations, but sires are chosen with an emphasis on reliability plus good legs and feet.

“The top 5% of cows are served with the most fashionable bulls so we can sell progeny,” adds Mr Pickford.

Heifers are weaned late at 8-12 weeks to reduce stress. “We‘ve also learned when we move them to another shed not to change their diet until they have settled,” he says.

Youngstock are housed in a slatted shed with Dutch heifer cubicles, sized according to growth stage, and bedded with mattresses. This makes it easy on labour and lockable yokes help with handling.

Once calved, heifers join a maternity group which keeps animals separate for the first three weeks of lactation allowing individual attention, adds Mr Pickford.

Gold cup finalists

  • Richard and David Butler, Lady Margaret Farm Partnership, Marlborough, Wiltshire
  • John Round, Elmore, Gloucester
  • Jonathon and James Pickford, Stone, Staffs
  • Roger and Wendy Taylor, Oswestry, Shropshire
  • Grosvenor Farms, managed by Mark Roach, Chester, Cheshire
  • Paul and Mark Day, Great Ayton, North Yorks

The winner will be announced at the Dairy Event.