Gold Cup finalists announced for 2018 competition

Finalists in the 2018 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup competition have been announced and include five Holstein herds and one crossbred herd across Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

Tom and Karen Halton, Halton Farms, Cheshire

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Tom and Karen Halton run Halton Farms, near Congleton in Cheshire.

Their 560-strong herd calves all year round and comprises three-way-cross Holstein Montbeliarde cows.

There are also 300 followers on the unit’s 222 tenanted hectares. Herd average yield stands at 10,300 litres of milk, at 3.90% butterfat and 3.30% protein, with a somatic cell count of 125,000 cells/ml.

Calving interval is an impressive 373 days.

Stephen and Mark Montgomery, Drumahoe, Co Londonderry

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Stephen and Mark Montgomery run their 180-cow pedigree Holstein autumn-calving herd at Gortree Farm. The 145-hectare unit is also home to 128 followers.

It’s taken the brothers just 10 years to build their impressive herd from nothing. They bought their first 100 cows from a neighbouring producer and the cows were walked half a mile up the road, to their unit, on September 5, 2008.

Following further investments in land, buildings and cattle, the brothers are consolidating their business and focusing on the detail to improve health, fertility and breeding.

The herd has been closed for the past eight years and is currently averaging 10,074kg of milk, at 3.93% butterfat and 3.22% protein. Somatic cell count is 136,000 cells/ml and the herd’s calving interval is 375 days.

James and Eleanor Tomlinson, Preston, Lancashire

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Could it be fourth time lucky for James and Eleanor Tomlinson’s 270-cow pedigree Bilsrow herd? It’s made the final line up three times before.

The all-year-round calving herd, which averaged 11,042kg of milk at 4.37% butterfat and 3.16% protein for the year ending September 2017, generates income through both milk and surplus stock sales. Managed on a conventional system, cows are grazed during the summer and housed in winter.

The cows graze for a minimum of 150 days a year – from early May to mid-October – to meet milk buyer Pakeeza Dairy’s ‘free range’ criteria and command a premium. 

Harvey family, Beeswing, Dumfriesshire

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The Harvey’s Dumfriesshire-based herd has also previously made the final line up, in 2014 and 2015. Based at Beeswing, John Harvey says that the herd’s success is merely a side effect of good management and the fact that he and the family team are always looking at how they can improve. “We always want to do things better.”

The 335-cow herd averaged 13,662kg of milk, at 3.85% butterfat and 3.18% protein, on three-times-a-day milking, for the year ending September 2017.

The herd is permanently housed except for one group, of around 100 mid-lactation cows, which is turned out to graze at the end of May, if conditions are suitable. The unit’s 260 head of young stock also graze during the summer.

Stowell Farms, Marlborough, Wiltshire

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Stowell Farms looks after the agricultural enterprises on the family owned 1,100-hectare Stowell Estate, based in the heart of the Pewsey Vale in Wiltshire. The livestock enterprises include a 515 cow Holstein herd, managed on a brand-new unit that was built in 2011 and allowed the herd to expand from 140 milkers.  

An AD plant was also built on the site to process arable crops from the estate and the slurry produced by the cows.  It produces all the electricity required by the farm and 83% of output is fed into the National Grid.

 Average yields for this all year round calving herd for the Gold Cup qualifying year to September 2018 was 10,052kg of milk at 3.48%butterfat and 3.05%protein. Somatic cell count averaged 165,000 cells/ml with a 397 day calving interval. Milk is sold to Watson’s Dairies.

Metcalfe Farms

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Metcalfe Farms is owned and run by brothers David, Brian and Philip Metcalfe.

David's responsibilities include growing the crops and looking after the finances of the businesses, Brian runs the haulage business and Philip manages the dairy.

Of the 1,300 hectares farmed, 200 hectares are owned with the remainder rented.

A new parlour was installed two years ago, as well as additional cow accommodation. And this allowed the business to increase the size of the herd from 900 to 1,300 cow in just two years.

The Holstein herd averaged 9,136kg of milk, at 3.89% butterfat and 3.19% protein, for the year ending September 2017. Somatic cell count is 155,000 cells/ml and calving interval is 423 days. Calving interval is now 403 and still falling. Yields have now increased to 10,800kg at 4% fat and 3.25% protein with a reduction in SCC to 124,000cells/ml. This is after the herd expansion - cows are now settled in.

Winner announcement will take place at Dairy-Tech

Gold Cup judges for 2018 are: RABDF chairman and Gloucestershire-based producer Mike King; NMR’s Jonathan Davies; Somerset-based producer and former Gold Cup winner Neil Baker; and Rob Hitch, who is a partner with Carlisle-based Dodd & Co accountants.

They will name the winner and runner-up of the 2018 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup at Dairy-Tech 2019, which will be held at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, on February 6, 2019.