Scotland’s Robert Sloan and his father Bryce, have been crowned top dairy breeders after winning the coveted NMR/RABDF Gold Cup at Dairy-Tech, at Stoneleigh Park, on Wednesday.

Robert Sloan, with his parents Bryce and Anne and wife Emma, from Auchinleck, Ayrshire, run the 180-cow Townlaw Holstein herd alongside the 60-cow Darnlaw Jersey herd that was introduced in 2016.

In 2011, to increase productivity while managing the available labour, the Sloans switched to robotic milking in a new purpose-built shed on a greenfield site on the farm. The Holsteins are now housed all year round and milked through three Lely robots.

Yields and cow longevity reflect the success of the system.

“In 2018 we had eight 100-tonne cows, a herd replacement rate of 19% and an average lifetime yield of 46,000kg,” says Robert.

“And we employ three people, each working up to 50 hours a week – but rarely more than four and a half days a week so they get time off to pursue their own interests.”

The Jersey herd is run separately and milked twice a day through the original parlour, grazing in summer and housed in winter. Milk from this herd fulfils a specialist contract with their milk buyer Graham’s Dairy.

Both herds calve all year-round. The Holsteins averaged 11,980kg of milk at 3.99%BF and 3.13%P and the Jerseys produced 7115kg of milk at 6.02% BF and 4.01%P in the Gold Cup qualifying year to the end of September 2018.

Somatic cell count for the Holsteins averaged 116,000 cells/ml and 79,000cells/ml for the Jersey herd.

RABDF chairman and competition judge Peter Alvis said: “This is a business where family members have worked together to develop the dairy herds and to establish a good working relationship with their milk buyer. They have invested well in technology and systems and their flexible approach to staffing ensures a good work life balance.”

The 2019 Chris May Memorial Award, for the Gold Cup qualifying herd with the highest lifetime daily yield, that reflects the herd’s all round milk production, health, fertility and longevity achievements, was awarded to Bill and Joe Ives from Herriard, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire.

Their 272-cow Gladwyke Holstein herd had an average lifetime daily yield of 19.6kg a day for the year to September 2018 with an average milk production of 12,742kg of milk.

Three awards were presented to Gold Cup qualifying herds that had achieved the highest combined weight of fat and protein production for their breed.

The NMR Silver Salver for the top Holstein herd was presented to Barry Coombes from Wedmore, in Somerset. His 207-cow Larkmore Holstein herd averaged 13,535kg of milk and had a combined fat and protein of 947kg.

Trucey Bunney from Winchester, Hampshire, won the Lilyhill Cup for the top Jersey herd with her 238-cow Lakedale herd that produced 7986kg of milk and had a combined fat and protein of 689kg.

The Chairman’s Cup, for breeds outwith Holstein and Jersey, was presented to James and Louise Macpherson from Barton-Under-Needwood, in Staffordshire. Their Beaufort herd of British Friesians achieved a milk yield of 8629kg of milk and 717kg of fat and protein based on 218 qualifying lactations.

The six NMR/RABDF Gold Cup 2019 finalists were:

Becci Berry, Brimstone Farm, Coleshill, Swindon, Wiltshire

Elizabeth Birkett, Rookhaye Farm, Bowerchalke, Salisbury, Wiltshire

The Firm of A Harvey, Drum Farm, Beeswing, Dumfries

Andrew King, Barrington Organic Partnership, Barrington, Ilminster, Somerset

Robert Sloan, Firm of Bryce Sloan, Darnlaw Farm, Auchinleck, Ayrshire

Stowell Farms, West Stowell, Marlborough, Wiltshire