With just days to go to the 2024 Northern Farmer Awards, we're profiling our finalists.

The winners will be announced at a spectacular awards ceremony at Pavilions of Harrogate, the Great Yorkshire Showground, on Thursday, February 22.

Also to be revealed on the night will be the overall 2024 Northern Farmer of the Year, chosen by the panel of judges from the category winners.

Outstanding Achievement, sponsored by Askham Bryan College

The Northern Farmer: Northern Farmer Awards 2024: Outstanding Achievement finalists

JF Hudson Ltd, Newton-le-Willows

Lactalign, a device designed to counter the impact of uneven weight and vacuum distribution of a milking cluster and prevent mastitis, was developed by North Yorkshire firm JF Hudson Ltd of Newton-le-Willows in conjunction with a local farm and scooped a Gold Award at LAMMA 2023 in the livestock Innovation category.

Now installed on four NMR RABDF Gold Cup-winning farms, Lactalign is helping to control the disease among high-yielding herds.

The Northern Farmer: James Hudson of JF Hudson Ltd

James Hudson, MD of JF Hudson Ltd, says: “At JF Hudson we pride ourselves on taking the initiative on problem solving for farmers.”

The product was developed after the herd management software used by Metcalfe Farms in North Yorkshire revealed twice as many mastitis cases in front quarters compared to the rear quarters, despite the herd having below average cases overall.

The farm approached design and agricultural engineering firm JF Hudson to help with a solution, which was trialled on the farm’s BouMatic rotary parlour. Lactalign was installed on all 72 points of the Metcalfe Farm’s rotary milking parlour at Washfold Farm in December 2020. The device has resulted in a 59 per cent reduction in liner slip, a 47 per cent reduction in kick-offs, a 65 per cent reduction in re-attachments and a 50 per cent reduction in mastitis cases in front quarters.

Philip Metcalfe, who runs the 1,300-cow dairy unit on the family business, says: “The significant impact has been better than we could have expected or even hoped for.”

Emma King, Poultry Health Services, York.

Emma King, lead vet for the North-East at Poultry Health Services (PHS) at Sheriff Hutton, was named the Young Farm Vet of the Year in the National Egg & Poultry Awards 2023 in recognition of her contributions to poultry producers in the region.

The Northern Farmer: Emma King

Emma took a break from her clinical work to gain practical on-farm experience, enabling her to enhance her knowledge and expertise. This proved invaluable when working with farmers to develop preventative health plans for flocks and providing training on practical biosecurity improvements.

Read more: Finalists revealed for 2024 Northern Farmer Awards

Emma also runs internship programmes for new poultry vets, trains junior colleagues and imparts clinical skills to veterinarians who only work with poultry occasionally.

Emma qualified from the Royal Veterinary College in 2016 and joined PHS after graduation, moving up to being a lead vet after just three years.

To gain more hands-on farm experience she became an area manager at Avara Foods and played a part in a major overhaul of biosecurity on turkey farms.

She says: “It was a very steep learning curve, but I wanted to get more context and know what is and isn’t practical on farms when I’m giving advice as a vet.”

She has since pursued further education and received a post-graduate diploma in Population Health Sciences.

Emma also sits on the APHA Avian Expert Group, as well being recently elected to the British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) committee.

Shepherds Purse Cheeses, Leachfield Grange, Thirsk.

Shepherds Purse, of Leachfield Grange, Thirsk, is an independent family-owned dairy that makes cheese in the traditional way. It was established in the 1980s by Judy Bell, who wanted to create alternatives to cows’ milk cheese. It now has a range of ten cheeses, including those made from sheep, cow and even buffalo milk.

The Northern Farmer: Caroline Bell

Although Shepherds Purse has grown, it remains an independent family business based on their farm in North Yorkshire. The Shepherds Purse team is now a team of 35 led by Judy’s two daughters Katie and Caroline. Judy died in March in 2022 aged 71.

Judy won the firm’s first gold award in 1989 with Olde York at Nantwich International Cheese Show. Awards have been an important part of Shepherds Purse since. At last year’s Great Taste Awards, the company’s Mrs Bell’s Blue Cheese was one of only ten British cheeses to win three stars.

The Northern Farmer: The 2024 Northern farmer Awards take place on February 22

Launched in 1997, the rich sheep’s milk blue cheese also won gold at the World Cheese Awards in 2019 and Champion Ewe’s Cheese at the 2022 International Cheese and Dairy Awards.

Caroline Bell, joint managing director of Shepherd’s Purse, says: “We put a lot of love and passion into our cheeses which are all made by hand, so it’s amazing to have this hard work recognised.”

Judy was the Great Yorkshire Show’s chief cheese and dairy steward, a role now filled by Caroline. The cheese auction at the 2023 show raised more than £5,000 for Herriot Hospice Homecare, a charity which supported the Bell family during Judy’s illness.