The countdown is on until the 2023 Northern Farmer Awards next week.

The winners will be announced at a spectacular awards ceremony at Pavilions of Harrogate, the Great Yorkshire Showground, on Thursday, February 23, and ahead of that sparkling event, we are publishing mini-profiles of all our finalists.

Also to be revealed on the night will be the overall 2023 Northern Farmer of the Year, chosen by the panel of judges from the winners of the ten categories.

Finalists in Dairy Farmer of the Year, sponsored by LC Longtown Ltd (Lely) are:

LC Longtown Ltd (Lely) sponsors Dairy Farmer of the Year

LC Longtown Ltd (Lely) sponsors Dairy Farmer of the Year

Jonathan Hutchinson runs a 480-cow dairy unit at Wilks Farm, near Whitby, on the Mulgrave Estate, having reduced numbers from 500, but maintaining production through efficiency. A herd of 450 would be ideal.

The cows are Holstein Friesians which Jonathan says have proved a very durable cow, living as they do on the top of the North York Moors, with good movement for grazing on hilly ground.

The farm is about 880 acres of mainly grass but growing around 100 acres of cereal with new leys forming part of the rotation. They have operated as a closed herd since 2013.

The cows are milked twice a day in a westfalia herringbone parlour built in 2009 as a 15/15 but later extended unusually to a 19/19.

Jonathan Hutchinson

Jonathan Hutchinson

The average annual yield per cow is 9,135 litres, a total of over 4.5 million litres per year. “If we kept the cows in all year we could do more,” says Jonathan, but he favours a grazing based system for most cows.

Milk goes to Arla on their 360 scheme. Most cows graze outside during summer and are housed during winter except the top 100 yielding cows, which are housed at any one time, a rolling system with changes made as yields fluctuate.

The farm usually retains the best 30 heifers each year, the surplus and any unproductive cows are sold.

READ MORE: Northern Farmer Awards 2023, Diversification of the Year finalists

There are five full time staff plus Jonathan and three part time. Jonathan says they are essential to the farm and it is his goal to keep improving the system so the team have a good work/life balance.

The 2023 Northern Farmer Awards take place on Thursday

The 2023 Northern Farmer Awards take place on Thursday

Carrsides Farm, at Rushyford, County Durham, is 1,250 acres in total, including 550 acres of grass, with 450 acres of that used for four or even five cuts of silage per year.

The farm has a herd of 600 Holstein/Friesian cows which are permanently housed. The farm is a fourth generation enterprise and Tom Wilkinson farms in partnership with his brother. Tom works closely with herdsman Simon, who has been at the farm for over 40 years, running the dairy side of things while his brother concentrates on the arable side. Tom says it is due to Simon's knowledge and dedication that the herd is what it is today.

Tom Wilkinson

Tom Wilkinson

They also employ a full time calf rearer, a full time tractor driver and a couple of part time milking assistants.

The cows are milked twice a day in a 30/60 herringbone parlour and all the milk goes to Arla. The cows calve all year round so there are no large fluctuations in milk quantity.

The cows are housed all year and split into four groups – heifers, high yield, mid yield and low yield. They are mainly in cubicle sheds with mattresses and sawdust. “Cow comfort is high on our priority list,” says Tom.

Cows average 30-31 litres per day at 4.17 butter fat and 3.36 protein.

The welfare of the cows is paramount to Tom who wants his cows to be happy and healthy above all else. Tom also sees it as his duty to ensure his workers are well cared for. Finding good staff is difficult so he is keen to ensure good working conditions.

READ MORE: Northern Farmer Awards 2023: Young Farmer of the Year finalists

Curlew Fields Farm, at Hessay, near York, is a 200-acre dairy operation farmed by fourth generation farmer Roger Hildreth and his family.

When Roger took over from his father, the herd was predominantly British Friesians but Roger introduced Holsteins. The 129-cow milking herd is now all pure Holsteins with 80-plus followers. The farm has 137 acres of grass – 120 acres perennial ryegrass leys, regularly reseeded, and 17 permanent pasture.

Roger and Judith Hildreth and family

Roger and Judith Hildreth and family

The cows are milked through a 12x24 swingover parlour twice a day, with a 0.28kg concentrate/litre average including dry cow feed and minerals. Milk yield is currently 11,142 litres (across two milkings). About 25 per cent more dairy replacements are bred than needed, all have undergone genomic testing since 2016 (the farm being one of the pioneers of this type of breeding), and the lowest PLI scoring calves are sold. This has resulted in a rapid rise in herd genetic potential and performance, taking the herd into the top one per cent nationally.

There is rotational grazing and some buffer feeding in summer. Multi-cut silage is made to maximise milk from forage and reduce feed costs.

READ MORE: Northern Farmer Awards 2023, Sheep Farmer of the Year finalists

The cows are housed in a deep sand bed freestall system, maximising comfort and production whilst minimising disease. Since 2002 the dairy herd has doubled in size twice and significant reductions were made in mastitis when they introduced sand beds.

They welcomed over 2,500 visitors on Open Farm Sunday in 2022. The farm is part of Arla’s 360 assurance scheme, and Roger is chairperson of the UK branch of European Dairy Farmers.

Last year brother and sister Tom and Nina opened Curlew Field Dairies selling fresh milk, milkshakes and ice cream, with plans to expand.