FW Awards 2010: Farmworker of the Year finalist – John Adams

How many herdsmen get up at 1am to milk their cows in a twice daily milking routine these days? It may seem challenging hours in these modern times, but John Adam’s commitment to the welfare of the 200 Holstein cows in his care is delivering extraordinary results.

At 63 years, John has the stamina of someone half his age; he insists on milking at 12 hour intervals to ensure that his cows are not only healthy and happy but they are delivering the best output on Adrian White’s tenanted 500-acre Iron Pear Tree farm in Rowde, Wiltshire.

In the 25 years that John has been on the farm milk output has moved from 5000 to more than 10,000 litres per cow with more than a third of the milk produced from forage. Grass, maize and whole-crop wheat silage are fed in equal proportions. Each type of forage is placed in individual ring feeders outside the cubicle shed. The cows love whole-crop wheat, says John: “It turns their stomach up nice – and gives them an appetite.”

John then adds 3kg of concentrate blend per cow, topped up with cake in the parlour according to yield. He is achieving a whopping £2000 margin over concentrate per cow, with a concentrate cost of 7p/litre. An achievement that consultant nutritionist Green & Kelly have acknowledged as the first within their practice.

John is committed to keeping feed quality high and costs down. There are no expensive tele-handlers in the yard. John uses a large tractor and fore end loader to place the forage in ordinary feeders within the yard and he feeds all the cows and young stock – by himself. He’s usually finished by 6.30am so the same tractor is then used for field work.

After milking, the cows are free to stay in the cubicle shed or wander into the yard to feed and then move out in to the field. Concrete railway sleepers installed in the gateway ensure that the cows can move freely in and out of the field.

And if contentment and looks are anything to go by his feeding and welfare regime is clearly paying dividends; on the judges’ visit the cows that had decided to stay inside the cubicle shed were remarkably calm and relaxed.

In all the years that John has been looking after the herd, there has been never been a cow with a displaced abomasums, says Adrian: “It’s extraordinary – our other herd averages about 20 cows a year.” He puts it down to John’s attention to detail to ensure that each cow has minimum stress, maximum comfort and top quality forage.

The milk goes to Cadbury for 26p/litre, which with the yields John is achieving, must make it one of the most profitable dairy herds in the country.

What the judges liked

• Total dedication to cow welfare and output

• Huge respect from all the farm staff and manager

• Ability to deliver outstanding profits and low costs

Farm Facts

• 200ha dairy farm in Wiltshire

• 200 milking cows

• Delivering a margin of £2,000 per cow

For more on the 2010 FW Awards

For more on the 2010 finalists