Finalists: Dairy farmer of the year, sponsored by Lely LC Longtown Ltd

James Todd, Newton Rigg College Farms, Penrith

JAMES TODD came to Newton Rigg as manager in 2017, having previously managed a dairy farm in the Eden Valley for four years and prior to that was managing the dairy herd at Harper Adams. Though he is from a predominantly dairy background, he was more than happy to rise to the challenge of managing the two farms at Newton Rigg and taking on the dairy herd plus sheep, beef and a small acreage of arable.

Sewborwens Farm is a lowland 180 hectare farm which is home to 250 pedigree Holsteins plus 193 following heifers, 220 North of England Mule sheep and an arable enterprise.

Lower Beckside Farm is a 143 hectare upland hill farm in Mungrisedale with common grazing rights on the fell, 350 sheep, mostly Mules, with some Swaledales and Cheviots.

The dairy herd are milked twice a day by students, with James overseeing day to day management and performance, though this had to work a bit differently this year with staff and students forming bubbles.

In 2019 milk yields had increased from 9,126 litres per cow to 10,660 litres. In 2020 this increased again to 10,780 litres per cow. The replacement heifers are reared in-house with any surplus being sold at the pedigree Holstein sales at Carlisle. Beef calves are either reared as part of the small beef enterprise on the farms or sold. As well as the suckler cows and calves, beef calves from the dairy herd are reared through to finishing.

The main focus of the farms is to educate students and to ensure they are prepared for a future career in agriculture. James introduced EBV for the sheep flocks and is bringing in improvement in the grass and crops.

James, who is a member of the Border and Lakeland Holstein Club, and a committee member for the Grassland Society, says: "Every day is a challenge, no two days are the same. I would like to think of remaining here long term. But the future of the college and farms are in jeopardy."


Phil Berry, of Boggart Hill Farm and Barton Brook Dairy, Preston

BOGGART HILL FARM has 160 acres of mixed owned and rented ground, comprising 130 acres of grass and about 30 acres of Spring wheat wholecrop grown for fodder. For 2021, five to six acres will be used for planting a Maize maze and an Autumn pumpkin patch. Thirty acres of maize will be contract grown for them on a neighbouring farm to be used on-farm for feed.

The herd of pedigree Holsteins currently runs to 120 cows in milk with ten dry plus followers. The herd size will increase through the years to 150 cows in milk plus followers.

They use 100 per cent AI, and the cows are permanently housed with grass cut throughout the growing season for silage.

A new parlour was completed and installed in January 2020 and is used for twice a day milking. The herd is currently yielding a 10,500 litres per day average. With a tweaked breeding program and increasing herd size, they are looking to increase production to 12,000 litres plus per day average by investing in quality grassland and increasing forage feed.

Phil Berry, of Boggart Hill Farm and Barton Brook Dairy

Phil Berry, of Boggart Hill Farm and Barton Brook Dairy

Six years ago they began selling raw milk direct from the farm and invested in a small bottling plant. The farm now sells 50 to 70 litres per day direct on the farm. The milk is bottled and put in a large commercial fridge in the coffee shop. The first lockdown of 2020 saw increased demand for this product and they hope that the increased awareness of buying local, quality products will continue.

In July 2018 they began producing Gelato ice-cream. It uses seven per cent butterfat and cream and can be made and into the cone in under 24 hours. The milk not required on the farm is sold directly to Mortons Dairies of Liverpool.

While farming and the dairy herd are of prime consideration, diversity to provide a secure future is needed. “We need to look at farming people, not just cows, to help the business grow,” says Phil.

David, Margaret and Jennie Booth, of Broom House Farm, Lothersdale, Keighley

DAVID BOOTH, from a farming background, is a first-generation pedigree breeder with a love of quality animals, who is presently celebrating the Shawdale herd winning one of this year’s coveted Holstein UK Master Breeder Awards. The award rewards Holstein members whose herds achieve a high standard in both classification and production and therefore breed productive, trouble-free long-living cows.

Last year marked four decades since the first animal was registered under the Shawdale prefix.

David, Margaret and Jennie Booth of Broom House Farm

David, Margaret and Jennie Booth of Broom House Farm

The farm is situated across 200 acres 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 struck out on their own in 1992.

David and Margaret 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.

The cows are housed all year round except for a three-week dry period before coming inside for the final weeks before calving. The farm also breeds all its own replacements and any extra are sold at the local market.

In 2015 a decision had to be made to restructure the business. Two Lely A4 robots were purchased, with a third added in February 2018. The family say that as well as milking, the data provided by the robots is invaluable and essential in picking up any health issues.

Cow families are very important to the Booths. Initial pedigree purchases in the 1980s and 1990s created the interest for David, and none more so than a maiden heifer Holmland Storm Pamela purchased from 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, one of which, Shawdale Mandelin Pamela 2, has been a Shawdale herd favourite for many years. She had a great showing career, and leaving eight VG and EX daughters, has given a lifetime yield of 146,545 litres in nine lactations. She is currently enjoying retirement on the farm.

The Booths say while bulls come and go, cow families stay, and the ability to blend the two is the secret to keeping a consistent herd.

  • The Northern Farmer Awards 2021 will take place – virtually – on Thursday, February 25. Log onto at 7pm to watch the ceremony. Get involved on social media using #northernfarmerawards