THE year 2020 marks four decades since the first animal was registered under the Shawdale prefix.

David Booth, from a farming background, is a first-generation pedigree breeder with a love of quality animals and a progressive attitude to farming, who is presently celebrating the Shawdale herd winning one of this year’s Holstein UK Master Breeder Awards.

The farm is situated on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border, 1,100 feet above sea level. It is not an easy farm but David has learned to work with whatever is presented. After farming along with the family, David and Margaret went on their own in 1992.

Family is a big part of the farming life both inside and outside on the farm. They have four daughters who all have dairy connections. Jennie, the youngest, has just moved into a newly built house on the farm and is a partner in the business. She is very much the future of the Shawdale herd, with her expertise and enthusiasm for breeding quality cattle.

With the farm extending to 200 acres, there are 16 acres of winter wheat planted this year with a further 30 acres bought as a standing crop. Three cuts of silage are made with predominantly the first and some second cut being fed in the milking ration.

The whole crop wheat is harvested in early September to achieve a dry matter content of 85 per cent and treated with a urea-based additive.

The cows are housed all year round except for a three-week dry period before coming inside for the final weeks before calving. The milk cow diet consists of 22kg silage, 4.6kg whole crop wheat, 1.5kg sugar beet (soaked overnight) in 8.5kg of water per head. The average cow receives 11kg of concentrate with additional minerals and limestone flour added to the diet.

Even with nearly 40 per cent heifers in the herd the cows are currently at a yield of 12,131litres at 3.97 per cent and 3.2 per cent, SCC are at 83 and a calving interval of 399. Having three robots has taken the pressure off the cows, allowing 22 per cent free time with 3.3 milkings.

Breeding criteria has changed slightly since the robots have been in place, with greater care taken over teat length and rear teat placement when selecting sires. With this in mind high type sires with well attached udders, good locomotion and correct rumps still feature highly.

Sixty per cent of the herd are in calf to sexed semen with sires such as Apple Crisp, Darlingo, Fitz, Grand Prix, Sidekick and Tatoo being used. A small amount of conventional semen is used on repeat breeders and the remaining animals put to a beef sire.

In 2015, after milking three times per day for 23 years within the family and one night milker, a decision had to be made to restructure the business.

The shortage of labour to help with the third milking led the Booths to make the considerable financial commitment to purchase two Lely A4 robots, with a third robot working in February 2018. An extra silage clamp and a new slurry store were also built.

Most cows and heifers are served with sexed semen, with about 30 per cent in calf to the British blue or Aberdeen Angus. These calves, along with a few sexed bulls, are sold at the local auctions.

Youngstock numbers have risen and so number 180 at the present moment. This means that the family can sell surplus heifers in the local markets of Gisburn and Skipton.

Recently five heifers sold at Craven Cattle Marts, Skipton, have averaged £1,900 per animal.

Cow families are very important to the Booth family too. Pedigree purchases from the Lancaster Sales and local sales in the 1980s and 1990s created the interest for David, and none more so than a maiden heifer Holmland Storm Pamela purchased from the Holmland Sale in 1999.

It traced back to the famous Wiseburrow Pamela and although only in the herd for a short while left seven daughters born at Shawdale, one of which, Shawdale Mandelin Pamela 2, has been a Shawdale herd favourite for many years.

She had a great showing career, mainly at the Great Yorkshire Show, culminating in 2007 winning Honourable Mention and Exhibitor Bred champion.

Leaving eight VG and EX daughters she has given a lifetime yield of 146,545 litres in nine lactations and scored EX96 with 5*. She is currently enjoying retirement on the farm.

In March 2019 Shawdale Atwood Pamela 119 was First Junior three-year-old at the UK Dairy Expo at Carlisle in a class of 18 animals. She then went on to be Honourable Mention Intermediate Champion and was one of six in the final line-up.

In July last year, she went yet again to the Great Yorkshire Show and was crowned Holstein Grand Champion. After competing for 14 years the family had finally recorded one of their greatest achievements and Jennie had realised one of her main ambitions.

The female lines of the herd are only one half of the Shawdale story and emphasis on high-type bulls has shaped the Master Breeder herd developed on the farm.

While bulls come and go, cow families stay and the ability to blend the two is the secret to keeping a consistent herd with a balance of production and type, ultimately recognised and recorded in many ways, including the Master Breeder award.

To this end the Booth family acknowledge the way that bulls like Maple Downs IGW Atwood have knitted so successfully with the female bloodlines on the farm.

For the last three years the Atwood progeny have won at both the Lancashire Summer Herds Competition and the Yorkshire Milk Recording Competition.

Looking into the future the aim is to maintain the high type and production on this family-owned dairy farm.