A pedigree Holstein herd, run on the outskirts of London, has received the UK’s most prestigious dairy herd award.
John Torrance, who farms 670 black and whites and 430 followers in partnership with his father Robert, mother Janet, and wife Lucy, was presented with the National Milk Records/Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers Gold Cup award.
The Torrance’s Curtismill pedigree herd is run on 429 hectares of Crown Estate land, just inside the M25 corridor at Stapleford Abbots, near Romford, Essex.
Ranking among the top UK herds for Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI), the family’s focus is firmly on efficiency, and they aim to breed cows that will produce 70,000 litres of milk, during an average of 5 lactations.
“Our attention to cow comfort and welfare when redesigning the dairy unit has contributed to the high levels of performance…”
Average annual yield (September 2021) for the all-year-round calving housed herd, which is milked 3 times a day, was 13,700kg of milk sold at 4.08% butter fat and 3.26% protein, with a calving interval of 382 days.
Sexed semen is used on maiden heifers and the top 25% of the herd to produce replacements. Beef semen is used on the remainder, with the family evaluating the benefit of genomic testing heifers to aid replacement selection.
The herd is housed all year round and fed a Total Mixed Ration (TMR), said John: “Our attention to cow comfort and welfare when redesigning the dairy unit has contributed to the high levels of performance that our 3 times a day milked herd is now achieving. And our team recognises that genetics, feeding, cow health, comfort and welfare all play a role.”
The team’s close attention to the cow environment and parlour routine, along with commitment to the key disease control and eradication schemes for dairy herds, contributes to the low disease incidence and high health status seen in the herd. Cubicles, for example, are sand bedded, and when it comes to milking, all cows are pre-milked. Any cows with clots or hard quarters are given pain relief and drench and there’s a cluster flush system to prevent cross-infection.
Future developments are focused around raising the benchmarks for performance, with environmentally sustainable measures also high on the agenda.
…cow or staff welfare are critical to business success.
“Having made significant investment in cow housing and facilities during the past 6 years, we are now profit focused and are keen to continue to improve herd performance and break new performance barriers. As our young herd matures, we hope to continue to improve performance without compromising cow or staff welfare – both are critical to business success. We also plan to sell surplus heifers for breeding in the future,” he added.
The gold cup was awarded at the UK’s Dairy Tech Show at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire on 8 April.