The Sloan family from Auchinleck, in Ayrshire, has won the 2019 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup.
Robert Sloan, who farms with his parents Bryce and Anne and wife Emma, runs the 180-cow Townlaw Holstein herd alongside the 60-cow Darnlaw Jersey herd, which 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 who each work 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% butterfat and 3.13% protein, and the Jerseys produced 7,115kg of milk, at 6.02% butterfat and 4.01% protein, during the Gold Cup qualifying year ending September 2018.
Somatic cell count for the Holsteins averaged 116,000 cells/ml and 79,000cells/ml for the Jersey herd.
Commenting on the winner, 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.”