• Sponsored by DairyCo
  • WINNER: Anthony Gothard, Slough Court Farm, Somerset

Anthony Gothard is the fifth generation of his family to farm at Slough Court Farm, Stoke St Gregory, Somerset, built around a beautiful moated manor house.

Six years ago the operation was split between two sites, with five miles separating a herd of 120 cows and another of 100 cows, managed by Anthony and his father. “The equipment was showing its age and we took the decision then to amalgamate the two herds and bring the whole operation into the 21st century,” he recalls.

This involved investing in a state-of-the-art 50-point Fulwood rotary milking parlour – one of the most technically advanced in the UK at the time – and a switch to three-times-a-day milking. Yields jumped from about 7000 litres a cow to more than 10,000 litres.

The farm currently runs to 210ha and includes about 69ha of Higher Level Stewardship land on the Somerset Levels intended to benefit wading birds. The £450/ha payment is used to rent other land for maize growing.

Cow numbers stand at 360 and the stock seen grazing in the fields near the farm buildings are a picture of health. But Anthony is keen to press on to 400 cows by the end of this year and has his sights on 450 next year.

The quest for herd expansion means there is major emphasis on longevity when it comes to breeding. He also aims for a low culling rate, giving even the most obstinate cows every chance to get in calf, while repeat offenders on the mastitis front will still be treated rather than culled.

Of course Anthony is not expanding the business on some kind of ego trip, but rather to maintain and enhance profitability. The herd already achieves a top margin over purchased feed of £2215 a cow, putting it second in the Milkmonitor league table southern region.

Milk is sold to Dairy Crest on a Sainsbury’s contract. “We were originally Sovereign suppliers to Unigate, and then followed through to Dairy Crest,” he explains.

He was therefore somewhat aggrieved when the farm was left out of the original Dairy Crest contract with Sainsbury’s. “We got in touch with the chief milk buyer last year and got him down to the farm where, with some other local farmers, we were able to convince him to do a Sainsbury’s pick-up in our area.”

But as well as trying to extract the most from the liquid milk contract, Anthony and his wife Natasha four years ago diversified into farmhouse ice-cream. Branded as Granny Gotthard’s homemade Somerset ice-cream, the business turns over £40,000, generating a small, but useful income.

Anthony-Gotthard-main

FARM FACTS

  • 210ha of owned and rented land
  • Part of the farm seasonally flooded on Somerset Levels
  • Three-times-a-day milking producing 3.7m litres
  • Homemade ice-cream business

WHAT MAKES HIM A WINNER?

  • Taken the farm into the 21st century
  • Demanded, and been awarded, a Sainsbury’s contract
  • Launched a successful ice-cream business

SPONSOR’S VIEW

  • All three finalists in this year’s competition have what it takes to drive the industry forward during these challenging times. Their attention to detail and commitment to their businesses is an example to us all. Ken Boyns, DairyCo

INDEPENDENT JUDGE

  • Anthony has a coherent plan about the future which incorporates greater use of natural and farm resources. Gwyn Jones