A Hertfordshire brother and sister farming partnership have been awarded a dairy cooperative's Farm of the Year award.
Daniel and Claire Howlett of Wicton Farm, Herefordshire have supplied the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo) for 18 years.
The judges at the OMSCo Together event commended the family’s innovative approach and determination to establish a sustainable business that could accurately accommodate all the business partner requirements.
Board member and competition judge Miles Saunders, explained that the panel were "thoroughly impressed" with the Howlett’s attention to detail, organisation and communication.
“Claire and Daniel have an exceptional eye for detail and have built a profitable and successful business around this, scrutinising every component to allow for continual improvement,” he said.
Farming 280 acres near Bromyard in Herefordshire, the farm currently milks 110 cows on an autumn block calving system, producing 8,500 litres/cow annually.
Milk from forage is currently 3,846 litres per cow and margin over purchased feed sits at £2,516 per cow, which is up there with some of the top performing farms.
However, what really impressed the judges, Miles, Nigel Davies from Promar and Mike Green, editor of British Dairying, was the constant determination to improve and be the best they can be.
The pair implement their day to day management decisions based on a detailed blood and urine sampling procedure.
A cow’s urine PH is tested seven days after moving onto the dry cow ration with bloods taken five days after calving and 35 days thereafter to check that the fresh cow diet is up to scratch to avoid metabolic issues.
“It’s great to see such a proactive approach to diet management and cow health, which allows the business to identify potential problems and address them quickly,” says Mr Saunders.
He added that careful planning, targeted investment and meticulous routines have allowed the Howlett’s to improve performance and efficiency.
“Simple innovations such as viewing platforms for heat detection to improve conception rates, and a well-designed calving pen, that’s washed down between each use to reduce disease risk, were evident throughout the business,” he said.
Features such as these are helping to fine-tune the business and create a high level of performance within a simple, easy to manage system.
“The farm has been designed with an impressive level of standard operating procedures so that it can be run single-handedly at the weekend, allowing Claire and Daniel to strike an important work-life balance,” Mr Saunders added.
“The Howlett’s have worked hard to develop a system that’s sustainable and profitable for the family. They have a true passion for organic dairying and are leading the way through innovative practices. As a result, they’re very worthy winners of this national title.”