Dairy Innovator of the Year

2020 Finalists

Sponsored by Arla

Showcasing dairy producers who have risen to the challenges ahead to remain profitable.

George and William Holmes, Holmes Farms, Dorset

Scrutiny of every detail is powering father and son team George and William Holmes to increase forage yields and build resilience against drought. They manage three dairy units and one arable unit in Dorset, adopting a mix of calving and grazing systems with the help of a farm manager, dairy manager and 16 staff. Supplying into Arla, the business has implemented five-year ‘improvement guidelines’, with detailed targets, including milk yield, butterfat content, calving rates, days grazing, grass production, antibiotic use, mortality and fuel use. Since the units previously suffered badly from drought, George and William now produce more forage and match stocking rates to forage production capacity using herbal leys and deeper rooting species.

Tom Neill, Thornington Farm, Northumberland

Strategic investment to modernise Tom’s 1,093-hectare farm is helping improve cow health and welfare and the happiness of employees. Following an £800,000 investment into infrastructure, facilities now include a fully automated parlour with accompanying health data which his contributed to reduced mastitis, lameness and dermatitis in the herd. Supplying Arla and a part of the co-op’s 360 programme, he milks 320 British Friesian cows, averaging 7,900kg milk and is trialling min-till and a soya-free diet. The farm has a beef fattening unit, an 1,800-ewe sheep flock, a contracting business and 384 hectares of cereals grown mainly for animal feed and bedding.

Anthony Oakes, Stublach Farm, Cheshire

The latest technology is improving cow health and yields and reducing emissions and costs on Anthony’s 214-hectare tenant farm. Supplying into Muller, he runs a closed herd of 515 pedigree Holstein Friesians, with 43% of the highest yielding cows housed all-year-round, so they can be carefully fed, cleaned and monitored using a robotic milking system. Cow collars collect data, enabling quick detection of health problems, and a robotic feeding system delivers optimum diet 24/7, reducing emissions, fuel and labour. The remainder of the herd are put out to grass and milked using a conventional herringbone parlour, although Anthony plans to move all to a robotic milker to accompany the automated robotic calf rearing shed.

Tom Rawson and Charlie Crotty, Evolution Farming, Yorkshire

Tom Rawson and Charlie Crotty have grown their dairy business by focusing and investing in staff as well as cows. Charlie joined Tom (who had already established the business) in 2015, bringing management agreements in Norfolk and Cheshire and the opportunity to take on a tenancy in Leicester. The business, which supplies into Arla, now employs a team of 45, managing 2,500 cows across six organic and conventional dairy units, plus arable, livestock and horticultural enterprises. The most significant change has been to develop a replicable business model, which Tom and Charlie believe is unique in UK dairy, inspired in design from New Zealand. Units are incentivised with financial reward, encouraging them to continually improve their performance.

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