Co Antrim, Northern Ireland
Among the new faces in the final six is Iain McLean, Northern Ireland, who manages the farm with his wife Joyce and father John.
The herd, which consists of 112 milkers on 105ha and 198 youngstock, was placed seventh in Northern Ireland for combined weight of butterfat and protein for the year to end of September 2007, with milk yields running at an average 10,600 litres at 4.23% butterfat and 3.1%.
Mr McLean also had the highest yielding cow and heifer in Northern Ireland – Priestland Herscel Charlotte giving 17,965 litres at 4.11% butterfat and 2.84% protein.
The current margin over feed is 16.2p/litre and margin over feed and fertiliser is 15.17p/litre. The ration comprises grass silage, whole-crop wheat grown on 13ha on the farm and a purchased blend is fed three times a day during winter.
The unit has been specifically geared to dairying over the past nine years, including the building of a new dairy unit with new parlour and cubicle housing. This revised management system simplified the system and made it more efficient.
Another fresh face from the east coast of Scotland is the Colquhoun family who aim to make the most of home-grown forage and cereals.
The system, run by Gregor Colquhoun and his parents Blair and Judy, produces a margin over purchased feed a cow of £1871 (19.5p/litre) with an input of about 20% grass forage from a partial TMR.
The Bervie Holstein herd has been built up to 360 cows, 300 of them in milk, with the aim to have a cow calving a day. Currently the milk yield is 10,500 litres a cow a year and Mr Colquhoun’s target is to average 3.6m litres over a full year.
Due to the introduction of robotic milkers, the herd is run with the same labour as when 200 cows were milked – and cows are now averaging 2.8 milkings a day.
“All the herd is AId with black-and-white semen with the aim of producing medium sized, maintenance-free cows with width from the rump to the chest and plenty of body depth,” says Mr Colquhorn.
Heifers are calved at 24 months old. The herd’s calving interval is 395 days with 2.6 straws used a conception.
Since establishing the herd at Hillhead of Covington, Biggar, 11 years ago with 50 commercial milkers, the Covington pedigree Holstein herd has been built up to total 200 cows, with 170 in milk, by milk producer William Baillie.
Most are now home-bred and averaging 10,500 litres at 3.9% butterfat and 3.1% protein from three times a day milking.
Farming in partnership with his mother Janet with two full time men, all cows are served by DIY AI and the bottom 20% are put to a Limousin.
“Heifer rearing is important and the quicker they calve the quicker they are earning you money. A heifer calving at two years old is a lot cheaper to rear than one calving at two and a half or three years old.”
With herd health a priority, the vet makes a routine weekly visit. The herd is vaccinated for leptospirosis, BVD and IBR. Once a month a foot trimmer attends to all cows due to be dried off and any others in need of attention – dramatically reducing lameness.
Former Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year Henry Lewis farms at Tack Farm, Bromyard, Herefordshire and his Winslow herd has expanded by 100 cows since 2004, pushing cow numbers up to 430.
Average yield for the year ending 30 September 2007, is 11,962kg at 3.83% butterfat and 3.13% protein, from three-times-a-day milking. The SCC stood at 195,000 cells/ml, with a calving interval of 415 days and a replacement rate of 27%.
The herd’s margin over purchased feed stands at £1676 a cow and is increasing by about £50 a month at the moment.
Fertiliser use at the unit is also low. At present Mr Lewis uses 22t of nitrogen across the whole farm and just 6t of P and K.
The move to becoming a flying herd – for the past three years all replacement stock has been bought in – has reduced the number of TB reactors and “shut downs” at the unit.
Nick, David and Alan Cobb
Having been a finalist last year Nick Cobb, of West Chaldon Farm, Dorchester, Dorset, who farms in partnership with his father David and uncle Alan, is back in the running again.
The 700-milking Holsteins in his Chalclyffe herd averaged 11,583kg of milk at 4.2% butterfat and 3.17% protein for the year ended 30 September 2007, on three-times-a-day milking. The SCC stood at 148,000 cells/ml, with a calving interval of 390 days and a replacement rate of 21%.
The herd is fed a TMR all year round and Nick Cobb believes consistency when feeding is vital. Margin over purchased feed a cow is £2054.
The herd is managed on a new unit designed to maximise cow comfort and ease of management. Rubber matted collecting areas, sand-bedded cubicles and specific pre- and post-calving areas are just some of the housing’s features.
And Mr Cobb breeds cows to suit this feeding and housing system with feet, legs and udder conformation all important, particularly teat shape and size.
Another former Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year finalist, Peter Jack farms in partnership with his wife Margaret at Normandy Farm, Blandford Forum, Dorset.
Milk from his 197-cow pedigree herd averaged 10,951kg of milk at 4.18% butterfat and 3.09% protein for the year ended 30 September and is sold on a Waitrose contract.
The SCC stood at 108,000 cells/ml, with a calving interval of 455 days and a replacement rate of 13.5%. Heifers are 26 months old when they calve.
Mr Jack has recently completed extensive expansion plans, pushing up herd numbers and building cubicle housing facilities for 215 cows.
He takes a commercial approach to breeding and hasn’t bred for milk yield for six years. He is looking for functional cows. Size is important, too – a large cow with plenty of capacity for forage. Milk from forage currently stands at 2785 litres.
The herd calves all year round and is fed a TMR for 35 litres a cow. Higher yielders are “topped up” using out-of-parlour feeders and concentrates are also fed in the parlour. The herd’s margin over feed is £1613 a cow.