Meet John and Jack Warnock. Together, they milk 234 VikingGoldenCross cows at Eastfield Farm, near Biggar in Scotland.
Driving high milk solids production from grazed grass and quality forage is the linchpin of the Warnock family’s autumn-calving dairy enterprise.
Last year their herd averaged 625kg of milk solids per cow from an average cow bodyweight of 580kg in their first lactation. They believe sourcing VikingGoldenCross cows that thrive in their pasture-based system has been key to unlocking much of this potential.
The autumn-block system is a departure from John Warnock’s previous all-year-round calving herd. After dispersing his herd of Holsteins in 2015 due to rock-bottom milk prices, John spent a six-year stint contract farming pure Jerseys.
But when his son Jack decided to return home to Eastfield Farm, in Coulter, they settled on a hybrid between the two systems in which Jack had cut his teeth.
“I went to New Zealand in 2018 and saw a lot of simple, spring systems. It was labour extensive during the summer months, and I liked seeing cows at grass. Then I worked for two and a half years on an intensive farm milking three times a day where you can control a lot more. Autumn calving was the best of both worlds,” explains Jack.
An autumn block also suited the farm’s grass-growing climate. The farm is situated 750ft above sea level, which can delay spring grass growth and result in bitterly cold winters. It also knitted well with the farms’ existing sheep enterprise, spreading family workload between spring lambing and autumn calving.
John’s wife Margaret, and daughter, Megan, both being indispensable to the business. Both rear calves and Megan relief milks on weekends around her job as a vet nurse.