British Dairying Gold Cup Comment: Cows milking better than ever

In the second of a series of regular monthly comment articles from 2014 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup winner Worthy Farm in Somerset, herd manager John Taylor outlines his surprise at winning the award and the latest news from the dairy unit.

Well what a day out that turned out to be—July 2nd 2014 will be etched into our memories forever.  I personally travelled up to the Livestock Event at the NEC with quite low expectations but Mr Eavis seemed convinced we had quite a good chance of winning the Gold Cup.

I’ve never been to the presentation before so was quite surprised how high profile it all was.  All the presentations before the actual announcement certainly gets you on edge.  And then finally they announced the winner of the 2014 Gold Cup “Mr Eavis”!  I was totally amazed and the next few hours just seemed to disappear.

I remember looking at the Gold Cup and all the previous winners’ names—it is unbelievable our farm will join the host of who’s who of dairy farming.

I would like to thank NMR and RABDF for their hospitality.  We finally left Birmingham at about 11pm and arrived back at Worthy Farm at about 12:30am.  The first thing I did was went and thanked our cows.  They didn’t seem too concerned but I was a bit emotional.  A phone call from our main milker Bart saying that his wife had gone into labour brought us back down to earth with a bump and meant milking at 3am.  Truth was I was still buzzing and couldn’t sleep anyway.

The morning routine flew by as everyone was on a high and then at last breakfast—the best meal of the day—and happy news of Bart’s son’s arrival, easy calving sire, home by teatime.

Time to sit down and have a bit of peace and quiet. No chance!  The phone just kept ringing with friends and family congratulating us on our achievements—I think this went on for about three days with lots of visitors as well.

The only sad note for us was that a very dear friend of ours, Malcolm Perkins, couldn’t be there, but I’m sure he was watching from above.  Thanks for everything you did for us, Malcolm, we all miss you.

I would personally like to thank Mr Eavis for all his kind words and for backing us over the last 15 years even when it was against his better beliefs.  I think we have both learnt to compromise but ultimately he’s the boss!

In my early days here at Worthy Farm I found the Glastonbury Festival pretty hard to cope with but fortunately for Mr Eavis my family and friends loved it.  It has certainly evolved over the last few years and has become much more cow friendly.  It doesn’t interfere with us these days because we keep all the cows inside until after the clear up operation, whereas years ago everything went out before the Festival came back in for six weeks and went out again.  It certainly used to be a challenge with so many diet changes.

I would like to thank all at Wilderley Hall (2013 Gold Cup winners) for setting such a fine example with their monthly comments and hope we can match their very high standards.  Hopefully one day we can challenge them in the Chris May Trophy (for highest average daily lifetime yield) which they have won in three out of the last four years.  A fantastic achievement and certainly a leading light in British dairy farming.

We have had 18 months of few diet changes and been very lucky making some top quality silage.  This year’s first cut grass was made on May 23 and 24 and is rocket fuel but has very little fibre.  At the same time as introducing this into the diet we also had to start our maize that was not harvested until end of October 2013 owing to wet conditions.

Rations have been consistent for the last 18 months but have needed tweaking in recent months.

Rations have been consistent for the last 18 months but have needed tweaking in recent months.

With the heat in early July this created more problems than I care to remember.  Our butterfat which is usually 3.8% crashed to 3.4% so we resorted to introducing one kg straw into the milking cow ration.  This seemed to create even more problems and after many meetings and much sampling of feeds it was removed.

I’ve never been a believer of feeding straw in milking rations, usually we feed one kg of big bale silage made in late June as a source of fibre.  We ended up having to re-formulate the whole ration mainly because the maize starch came back at 43%.  Our butterfats still haven’t returned to their usual levels but the cows seem happier and have milked better than ever averaging 33.1 litres at the last recording while at grass by day.

The Promar Milkminder rolling results continue to rise—but that’s about to change though as we face a 1.8ppl price cut from October 1st leaving us about 2.6ppl down on last October.

Current figures at Worthy Farm
Rolling Yield     11,744 litres
Milk Price    34.06ppl
Butterfat    3.73%
Protein    3.2%
Total milk value per cow    £4,000
Concentrates per cow    4.116 t
Concencentrate price    £297 t
Concentrates per litre    0.35kg
Conc cost per cow    £1,222
Conc cost per litre    10.41ppl
Margin over conc per cow    £2,777
Margin over conc per litre    23.65 ppl

Reprinted from the October 2014 edition of British Dairying. To see the original article please visit the British Dairying website