A WENSLEYDALE farm has won the NMR RABDF Gold Cup, the dairy sector's top award.

Philip Metcalfe and his team from Metcalfe Farms, Leyburn, was presented with the award by The Princess Royal at Dairy-Tech, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire on Wednesday.

Metcalfe Farms is owned and run by brothers David, Brian and Philip Metcalfe, with Philip managing the dairy herd on 525ha of the 1300ha within the farm business. In 2016 they added a new parlour and additional cow accommodation to enable the herd to expand.

Today, 1,300 pedigree Holstein cows and 850 youngstock are kept on the unit. Cow health and welfare protocols are a priority, with dedicated and trained staff covering all aspects of herd management, including milking routines, cow nutrition, calf rearing and dry cow care.

These practices, combined with breeding cows for type, good locomotion and avoiding extremes, have promoted improvements in overall herd performance. The herd is now averaging 10,800kg at 4 per cent fat and 3.25 per cent protein, with a cell count of 124,000 cells/ml. Calving interval is 403 days in this all-year-round calving herd.

The dairy team are all from the local community and milking is a fine-tuned operation with five people covering each milking shift. Milk is sold to Yorkshire-based Paynes Dairies.

Mike King, RABDF chairman and Gold Cup judge, said: “Philip Metcalfe and his team have a very high level of focus in all areas of their dairy business, which has enabled the farm to grow suitability from the results and profits generated, whilst achieving a very high level of health and welfare in the cows and youngstock.

“Philip is passionate about the well-being and sustainability of his dairy herd and in maintaining improvements in key parameters such as health and fertility. He is also passionate about its place as a valuable business within the local community."

Gold Cup runner-up 2018 and recipient of the NMR Silver Salver were brothers Stephen and Mark Montgomery from Drumahoe, Co Londonderry. They run their 180-cow pedigree Holstein autumn-calving herd at the 145ha Gortree Farm, Drumahoe, along with 128 followers.

It has taken the brothers only ten years to build their herd and unit from nothing, having bought their first 100 cows from a neighbour and walked them half a mile up the road to their new unit in September 2008.

Winner of the 2018 Lilyhill Cup, for the highest placed Jersey herd in the Gold Cup competition, was Thomas Dickinson from Scaftworth, Doncaster.

Thomas, with parents John and Susan, run the Thurlstone Jersey herd supplying milk to Longley. Cows on this 163-hectare unit calve in two blocks, spring and autumn, and yielded 5974kg of milk at 5.58 per cent fat and 3.99 per cent protein in the year to September 2017. About 60 per cent of milk is produced from home-grown forage.

The Chris May Memorial Award, for the herd with the highest average lifetime daily yield among qualifying Gold Cup herds, was awarded to the Higgins family from Wilderley Hall Farm, near Shrewsbury

In the qualifying year, to September 2017, the 400-cow pedigree Wilderley herd averaged 12,177kg of milk at 3.85 per cent fat and 3.11% protein on three times a day milking with a somatic cell count of 79,000cells/ml and a calving interval of 400 days.

The herd is housed and calves all year round. It achieved a lifetime daily milk yield in the qualifying 12-month period of 18.88kg/day, reflecting its high level of production, herd fertility and herd health.