Six of Britain’s best compete for NMR RABDF Gold Cup final 2016

David Irwin from Benburb. Picture: Chris McCullough
David Irwin from Benburb. Picture: Chris McCullough

Six dairy units have made it into the final of this year’s NMR/RABDF Gold Cup competition.

This year’s judges, RABDF Chairman and former Gold Cup winner Michael King, NMR director Jonathan Davies and Gold Cup winners 2013 Andrew and Bill Higgins, will visit each unit. The winner and runner-up receives the NMR Silver Salver, at 4.30pm on the NMR stand at the Livestock Event, NEC Birmingham on July 6.

Adrian McFarland, left, and wife Sharon with son Ryan on their farm near Omagh. Picture: Chris McCullough

Adrian McFarland, left, and wife Sharon with son Ryan on their farm near Omagh. Picture: Chris McCullough

This year’s Gold Cup finalists are:

Brian, Sheila and Michael Yates, East Logan, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire

This is the third time that the Yates family has entered its 280-cow herd, which is based on a 137-hectare unit at East Logan and managed with help from his wife Sheila, son Michael and daughter Anna, as well as herdsman Trevor Hough and part-time worker Leslie Craik. The pedigree Logan herd also qualified in 2014 and 2015 and were finalists in 2015.

A close look at his business reveals that it is attention to detail that has paved the herd’s way to success. Housed all year round and fed a TMR, the herd’s average production, for the year ending September 2015, was 12,273kg at 3.83% butterfat and 3.09% protein, with 102,000 cells/ml. Milk is sold to Arla.

Richard and Grant Walker, Lakehead Farm, Closeburn, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire

Farming company directors Richard and Grant Walker farm in partnership with their mother Shona and together they run a herd of just over 500 Holstein Friesian cows on their 329ha grass and arable unit. Over the past four years since the brothers returned from university there has been substantial investment in farm infrastructure and the herd has seen a threefold increase over that time. Richard and Grant head up a young enthusiastic team of five other full time staff - with the dairy team’s average age being 24 years - that look after the herd of pedigree Holsteins which averaged 10,575kg of milk at 3.88% fat and 3.33% protein on a flat rate TMR system. Yield average is now above 11,000kg.

David Irwin, The Beeches, 51 Drumflugh Road, Derrycreevy, Benburb, Dungannon, Tyrone

David farms in partnership with his parents David and Sylvia Irwin and along with two full time staff they run the pedigree Redhouse Holstein herd of 170 autumn/winter calving cows plus followers. The 93ha unit is mainly down to grass with 20ha of spring barley grown for inclusion in the dairy rations. The herd is fully housed and averages 12,300kg milk at 3.84% fat and 3.21% protein on three times a day milking.

An engineering graduate, David has been full time on the farm for the past seven years and is very much an early adopter of technology and husbandry techniques which will improve the performance of his herd. He has also concentrated on developing a high health status herd with good fertility and this has enabled him to grow sales of pedigree stock – worth more than 5ppl to the business. The herd is accredited Johne’s and BVD free.

Tomos Davies, Rhydygors Farm, Talog, Carmarthen

Tomos Davies, who farms in partnership with his father Glyn and mother Myrtle, has entered the competititon three times and has now made it to the final. The family run 325 milkers, plus 230 young stock. Housed all year round and fed a TMR, the Holstein herd’s average production, for the year ending September 2015, was 12,109kg at 3.92% butterfat and 3.21% protein, with a somatic cell count of 191,000cells/ml.

Yields have certainly increased during the past few years due to consistent feeding and a switch to three-times-a-day milking. Milk to Muller Direct Milk

Adrian McFarland, 41 Backfarm Road, Omagh, Co Tyrone

Adrian currently farms in partnership with his wife Sharon and they have been joined on the farm part time by their eldest son Ryan who has recently finished his university studies. Together they run a herd of 106 Holstein Friesian cows plus followers on their 64ha farm.

The herd calves from September to March and is TMR and parlour fed in winter and grazed in summer to produce an average 8069kg milk at 4.2% fat and 3.28% protein, with an SCC of 101,000 cells/ml.

Herd health and biosecurity is a key area of focus in this closed herd. They have an extensive vaccination programme for Leptospirosis, BVD and IBR as well as routinely monitoring their Johne’s disease status through NMRs HerdWise scheme.

Simon Bugler, Pilsdon Dairy Farm, Pilsdon, Bridport, Dorset

Simon Bugler is the fourth generation of the family. He manages the high yielding herd of 570 pedigree Holsteins plus 700 followers in partnership with his parents Roland and Heather and has 12 full time employees. The business has grown to 295ha with a further 142ha of rented land used for forage and young stock grazing.

The decision was taken to house the cattle year round six years ago which improved cattle health as well as lifting yields.

The herd achieved 11,260kg of milk at 3.56% butterfat and 3.1% protein on three times a day milking in the Gold Cup qualifying year to September 2015. Calving interval was running at 380 days.

Since then average yield had edged over 11,600kg and cell counts have fallen in this all year round calving herd. Milk is sold on a Muller Sainsbury’s milk contract.