Gold Cup Comment: Worthy Farm looks to future

This month herd manager John Taylor—and owner Michael Eavis—sum up their pleasure at winning the 2014 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup and give an indication to the future.

We have talked a bit about robots and looked at a few but when my wife Pam said she was going to stop milking at 60 (oops!—sorry dear), it certainly focused all our minds on what to do in the future—although it’s still a couple of years away, writes John Taylor.

I think a robotic rotary would be the best option as Mr Eavis is always going to want cows to graze even though it is only an image thing for the festival.  Personally, it is much easier to manage high yielding cows indoors as grass is so variable—along with the good old British weather.

Well at least it has been a good growing year, and there will certainly be no shortage of forage this winter so that will allow us to save on bought in feeds.  In the last week we have made our 700 big square bales of grass and clover silage which smelt as sweet as a nut, even if it is a bit fibrous.

The good thing is I shall soon be able to take the straw out of the milking cow rations much to (nutritionist) Allison’s dismay, since putting straw in the ration our butterfat has dropped.  It will be interesting to see what happens when we switch it back for big bale silage.

Last year when we turned the cows out to grass by day we lost three litres per cow per day so I have decided to feed them some TMR mix in two feed trackers and this seems to have worked well, although it is only a few days yet.

The milk dropped a lot the first couple of days but it seems to be nearly back to normal now for the last couple of days.  I have left the ration exactly the same, just replacing grass silage with grass and leaving all the other ingredients the same.  I think I can get away with this as our grass is all old permanent pasture with no fertiliser so it’s probably low in protein.

 John Taylor’s grandchildren look on as the Worthy cows are put to grass.

John Taylor’s grandchildren look on as the Worthy cows are put to grass.

We have also turned out 120 in-calf heifers in three different groups and it is a pleasure to walk around these—I am really looking forward to some of these coming into the herd.  We have kept in a group of fifty 12 to 14 months old heifers and will AI these with sexed semen over the next few months.  We also have a group of sixty from eight to 12 months old which I think we will turn out next week even if we give them two kg cake to keep them growing.

We have finally sorted out another set of buildings and 150 acres to rent so we will now be able to move some youngsters there and probably take our far off dry cows there. 

In the longer term, we aim to have just milking cows at Worthy Farm and close to calving cows—altogether we now have enough room for 500 cows plus.

I have been doing this job and looking after cows now for 41 years.  Without any doubt at all this has been a truly outstanding year for all of us at Worthy Farm, and hopefully you have all enjoyed your visits as much as we have enjoyed showing you all around.

I can remember watching Tim Harding winning the Gold Cup, and thinking that would be nice one day—never in my wildest dreams thinking it would ever happen.

I would like to thank everybody whom I have worked for in any way as I think that the day you stop learning is the day you should pack it in.  I personally could deal with cows all day—but my patience is not so good with people though.  I must thank Mr Eavis for letting us have a free hand for the last five to six years in running the dairy as though it was our own, and for his continuing investments in moving the farm onwards, and hopefully upwards.

Finally, I have to thank my fantastic wife Pam, who has put up with me for over 40 years now, and when things go wrong you are glad she is in your corner.

When my mate Ian won some money on the lottery, I gave him a bit of stick about it—but he promptly replied that I won the lottery the day I met Pam.  For that I should thank Young Farmer’s Disco night in 1975!

A good year and plenty to look forward to in future

We have now come to the end of our Gold Cup year, and what an exciting year it has been, writes Michael Eavis.  From the winning moments of Birmingham NEC and to the Gold Cup Open Day here in early May.  We enjoyed showing all the visitors how we run this farm and I hope some of our ideas caught on with others.

This week I was so pleased to see the cows go back out to grass after the festival.  It’s only five weeks since the Glastonbury Festival ended, and we’ve had hundreds of eager workers dedicated to bringing the farm back to normality.

The dark clouds of low milk prices don’t seem to be moving away at the moment, but I’m pleased to see cheaper barley straw, and lower cereal prices offering some redemption to the situation.  I reckon it might take a year before the pendulum swings the other way.  But in the meantime I’m looking forward to being president of the Bath & West Show.

And we are planning a major investment to reduce my milking costs by £200,000 per year.  I’m hopeful of using the very latest technology available anywhere in this country to milk large numbers of cows—so I hope you can see that at the end of May next year.

 John Taylor and Michael Eavis

John Taylor and Michael Eavis

Enough of that—now it’s back to the business of maintaining the high standards that are needed to qualify for the Gold Cup.  Not that we can apply for another couple of years—but winning it last year has created a buzz and a pride that will take a long time to get over!

I vividly remember my grandparents scrubbing the flagstones of the dairy floor with soapy water to a silver shine after milking.  That was before the days of poured concrete over 70 years ago.  Would I be here now without their endeavour, energy and dedication to succeed?

Reprinted from the August 2015 edition of British Dairying. To see the original article please visit the British Dairying website