The 2014 Promar Dairy Farmer of the Year award has been presented to United Dairy Farmers members Wilmour and Colin Johnston from Glenanne in County Armagh.
The Award is presented annually at the Winter Fair to the United member whose Promar farm management results have shown the most improvement within the last 12 months.
A first generation farmer, Wilmour Johnston has been running the Glenanne farm since the family purchased it in 1976, with his brother Mark and son Colin also now involved in the business. The main enterprises at the farm are a herd of 220 non-pedigree Holstein cows with 200 followers and a beef herd.
Wilmour and Colin record monthly data in conjunction with farm consultancy company Promar to monitor herd performance and their commitment to delivering efficiency and profitability has been reflected in this Award.
One significant development for the Johnstons this year was a change in feeding approach: “We introduced a zero grazed system for low yielding cows to improve grass utilisation and reduce feed costs this year,” explains Wilmour Johnston. “We’re pleased that margin over purchased feed has shown an impressive 35% improvement on last year,” said Wilmour.
Taking four cuts of silage each year, the Johnstons place strong emphasis on high quality grass to further improve yield from forage. They mow down their own grass as well as tedding and raking to give greater control on cutting dates and quality potential. Colin Johnston said:
“We view re-seeding is an essential investment,” said Colin Johnston. “In order to produce milk with a sustainable margin, farms need to focus on grassland management and sward quality. This approach is working well for us and we’re delighted that our efforts across the farm have been recognised by United Dairy Farmers in naming us as the Promar Dairy Farmer of the Year for 2014.”
The Johnstons’ herd has been part of the Genus RMS program for the past eight years, an approach which is also delivering solid results, with a calving index of under 400 days.
Herd health is another area of huge importance to the Wilmour and Colin. All breeding stock is vaccinated for IBR, calves are sampled for BVD through tissue tags and foot trimming is a routine practice to prevent any major problems developing.
Presenting the Award, John Dunlop, the United Dairy Farmers’ Chairman, said: “Many congratulations to Wilmour and Colin Johnston on being named Promar Dairy Farmer of the Year. Their commitment to efficiency, productivity and growth provides the foundation for a profitable enterprise going forward.”
The Johnstons plan to expand their herd to 250 cows within the next two years, with most major infrastructure already in place.