2017 FW Awards: Dairy Farmer of the Year

First generation farmers Neville and Suzanne Loder have created a blueprint for new entrants seeking to get into dairying.

They may have taken a traditional route into agriculture – securing a small council farm tenancy – but they’ve also been intuitive in securing more land along the way to help them build a relatively small, yet very resilient dairy enterprise.

The couple are now milking 147 spring calving, cross-bred cows across 104ha.

See also: 2017 FW Awards: Dairy Farmer of the Year finalists

Neville and Suzanne Loder 

The Dairy Farm, Oborne, Sherborne

Neville and Suzanne Loder, The Dairy Farm, Oborne, Sherborne

© Hugh Nutt

Their tenacity and low-cost system has seen them survive some of the toughest periods the dairy industry has seen.

Winning ways

  • They have triumphed over adversity
  • Achieving exceptional fertility
  • Small but very profitable in the face of volatility
  • Positive, can-do attitudes

Neville says it’s fortuitous timing that has been key in their success. 

When milk prices plummeted to below 20p/litre in 2000 and many UK producers exited the industry, they saw it as an opportunity to enter while heifer prices were low.

To thrive, an unwavering focus is placed on maintaining high performance.

Heifers are mated to easy-calving, Jersey-cross bulls to calve at two and cows are AI’d to New Zealand Friesian and Jersey bulls. After six weeks, a Hereford bull is run as a sweeper. Fertility is excellent with 90% of the herd calving within six weeks.

Comparable farm profit is being kept high at 14.24p/litre by maximising returns from grass.

Paddock grazing alongside looking after soil health and regular re-seeding is helping them produce 1,526kg/ha (422kg milk solids a cow).

Neville is also passionate about helping others to secure tenancies through his role as a farm liaison panel for Dorset county council farms and they have clear goals in place to allow them to retire in 15 years.

Finalists in the Dairy Farmer of the Year category were:

  • Tim and Louise Downes, The Farm, Lognor, Shropshire
  • Alan and Donna Webber, Hensley Farm, Crediton, Devon