The winner will be announced at the Dairy Event. Shirley Macmillan finds out more about four of the finalists

HIGH YIELDS from a simple system is the approach at New Sheepfold Farm in the North Yorkshire National Park, one of six finalists in this year‘s Gold Cup competition.

The 185-cow herd run by Paul Day and his son Mark achieves 10,125 litres at 3.95% fat and 3.16% protein on a diet of grass silage, whole-crop cereals and kale.

“I don‘t believe in changing a winning formula,” says Mr Day. “We‘ve had a simple system for 20 years and have just improved things here and there.”

Concentrates are fed in parlour and via out-of-parlour feeders, while 3.2ha (8 acres) of kale is strip grazed in late summer as grass quality begins to decline, helping to boost appetite, he says.

Because the farm lies at 216m and 36ha (90 acres) is in a Less Favoured Area, it is too cold for maize, so as yields have increased due to better genetics, Mr Day has sought to make higher dry matter grass silage.

“We now ted grass and can get up to 40% dry matter as well as growing 50 acres of wheat and barley for whole-crop. The mix helps with intakes and we have maintained yield from forage at 4500 litres.”

Mr Day says they are not looking to push yields further, but keep management up to cope with high yielding Holsteins.

“We want to improve type and breed a long-life cow to cope with our system, so we are going away from extreme Holsteins. We want a hard wearing cow with good locomotion and body scores.”

Part of the improved management strategy saw a new shed built two years ago which holds 80 cows in larger cubicles. This has allowed the Day family to split cows in winter according to size and yield.

They also aim to expand to 200 cows and the family is buying the farm next door to serve as a heifer rearing unit, so numbers can be increased.

Qualifying requirements
To qualify for the 2004 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup herds needed to have more than 50 cows, an annual average cell count below 175,000/ml and a PIN of £20 or more.

The cell count category has increased by 25,000/ml since 2003 to reflect the national picture and allow a greater cross section of farms to be eligible for entry.

Farms are judged on performance, management, environmental policy and business plans.