FOR one Lanarkshire farming family, Ayrshire cattle have been the bread and butter in their business for the past 60 years, producing easy managed and hardy cows which have the ability to produce more milk from forage with higher milk yields and components, and in this case, an impressive number of prize winners at both local and national shows.
John Adamson, who farms with his parents, William and Margaret, his wife Avril and their two sons, Jay (10) and Ryan (8) run their well-known Swaites herd alongside a 450-ewe flock between their two units – Swaites and Glentisset – near Pettinain, Lanark.
This 220-cow herd is predominantly made up of Ayrshires but in the past, has been blended with Canadian and red and white Holstein genetics, and includes 180 milking cows which boast an average milk yield of just under 9000 litres at 4.4% BF, 3.41% P, cell count 88, bactoscan 9, with a calving index of 390 days.
“The Ayrshire has always suited our system here,” said John, who has just returned from ArgiScot, having scooped the reserve Ayrshire cow title with Swaites Bright Spark 5 VG87, and is now gearing up for next week’s LiveScot, where he took the top title last year with Swaites Nice Girl, a previous AgriScot red and white champion.
John added: “Continuous wet summers have meant that the cows have had to be housed inside more than they should be, so the quality of the cow’s feet and legs is very important to us. 
“Luckily, the Ayrshire proves to be an ideal breed for housing inside,” he said, adding that in 2012 the cows at Swaites were outside for just 27 days.

The Scottish Farmer:

A line-up including Swaites Bright Spark, Swaites Moonshine and Swaites Binnie

Having boosted the herd number by 70 in the last 10 years by using sexed semen to increase the population of females, the Adamsons are now able to sell on surplus females privately as well as keeping more replacements which has cut costs in building up the herd. 
This year they sold a total of 30 females to repeat customers, both privately and through the sale ring, and still managed to maintain their herd number.
It’s a similar story with the male progeny as for the last five years some of the home-bred bull calves have been retained or sold privately, with Swaites bulls having sold as far south as Wales and across to Ireland. 
Both Swaites Duport and Swaites Dynamite are two-home bred bulls which have made a real mark on the herd, as well as Brieryside High Profile and Brieryside Red Centurian, all of which have produced top-end females that have gone on to win various show awards.
The next home-bred hopefuls include Swaites Double 07, bred from the Dewdrop family and Swaites Dermot, from the Dilly family.

The Scottish Farmer:

This youngster Swaites Double 07 bred from the Dew Drop family is a hopeful stock bull for the herd

Although using home-bred bulls, AI is also used with particular attention to feet, legs and milk quality. Bulls are also sourced from Carlisle. Current stock bulls include the latest 3000gns purchase from Carlisle, Morwick Prince Rocky, and Swaites Norbrook, a son of the noted, Swaites Nonny which was shown at AgriScot five years on the trot.
But in order to achieve continuous bull and female sales, John believes that the show ring is the best advert and that is one place which the Swaites herd has certainly excelled in on numerous occasions over the years.
“Showing is a good shop window and a great chance to display the best from your herd,” said John, adding that both himself and Avril, as well as their two boys, love the showing buzz.  
“We’ve been showing for a good few years now and it’s certainly not a holiday. There is so much preparation which has to be done both before and on the day.”

The Scottish Farmer:

One of the best – Swaites Bright Spark 5 VG87, which has been in the prizes since she was a calf and was reserve at AgriScot this week

This year, the Swaites herd made a comeback to the Highland Show ring after a 10-year absence and managed to take home the reserve Ayrshire honours and best bred by exhibitor with Swaites Dainty 11, a debutante third calver by Nexus Dreamer classified EX90. 
Having peaked at 42kg per day, she has gone on to produce over 9000kg in her third lactation. The family had more to celebrate when they scooped the dairy calf championship with Swaites Beauty 24, an East Church Patrolman-sired calf, brought out by young Jay.
While AgriScot, club herd competitions and the newly established dairy section at LiveScot have all proved a huge success for the Adamsons over the years, this year’s UK Dairy Day saw the best from the Swaites herd take both the champion and reserve awards. 
Champion and reserve inter-breed was this year’s reserve cow at AgriScot, Swaites Bright Spark 5 VG87, a second calver by Brieryside Red Centurian, which also stood reserve heifer last year at AgriScot, while Dainty 2 carried on her reserve placing from the Highland.
The two then paired together to stand reserve amongst the inter-breed pairs. Since the UK Dairy Show, Bright Spark’s calf and mother sold to a repeat buyer from Wales.
On top of that, the Swaites herd recently scooped its ninth win in the Lanarkshire Calf Show. 
“We like to treat all the cows the same here, so whether they’re heading to a show or are staying at home, they’re in the same shed and are fed the same ration,” said John.
Housed in sawdust cubicles, cows are fed a ration of grass silage, 0.5kg of straw, 7.5kg of blend and 5kg of super grains, with cake fed in out of parlour feeders.
The bottom-end of the herd go to a British Blue bull, with calves sold between eight and nine weeks privately. Heifers calve by 2½ years, having run with the Ayrshire bull, before being chased up with the Shorthorn. This results in an easier calving and the hope of producing roan calves.
In recent times, the steading has been modernised at Swaites to suit the growing dairy herd. This included the instalment of a bigger and better 13/26 herringbone parlour in 2007 and various new amenities such as CowScout to monitor cows and new out of parlour feeders.
John concluded: “The aim here is to carry on breeding top quality stock and to further globalise the Swaites herd through shows and sales and to one day hopefully win the big showing event of the year... Carnwath Show!