NMR RABDF Gold Cup 2023 Finalists Preview - #2 Worthy Farm
Michael Eavis, Pilton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
Sustainability is the name of the game when it comes to Worthy Farm in Somerset, which is famous as the site of the Glastonbury Festival. A previous NMR RABDF Gold Cup winner, in 2014, the dairy business is back in the limelight as one of the four 2023 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup finalists.
This farm has changed considerably in the past decade thanks to the adoption of technology. Clear innovators in the sector, they continuously challenge what is ‘normal’ in dairy farming. A direct synergy between innovative and sustainable local food production is a key focus, and they do this alongside providing a place for education and entertainment purposes.
The real headliners of this farm are, however, the 500 Holstein dairy cows, which are producing more than six million litres of milk a year, from an average of 12,000kg a cow, all through a robotic rotary milking parlour. Milk goes to cheesemaker Wyke Farms, less than 10 miles away, and a third of their supplies are made into Worthy Reserve Chedder and sold to retail outlets.
Managed by John Taylor and wife Pam, the focus is on maximising milk from forage with cows grazing for more than 100 days in the year. They only take one cut of grass silage a year from 315 ha (780 acres) in mid-May, with slurry being the only fertiliser used.
In June each year, around 175,000 music fans gather at Worthy Farm for the famous Glastonbury music festival. Permanent grassland is required to sustain such footfall and is a great carbon sequester. The grassland is permitted the remainder of the year to recover, with some grazing and some broadcast reseeding as the site is cleared.
Improving their sustainability has also been achieved by investing in an anaerobic digestor with a long-term innovative ambition to dry slurry to a prilled, exportable fertiliser.
Further developments connected to this AD plant include an involvement with new technology which could provide a renewable vehicle fuel, which will result in an exhaust emission from their vehicles that is just water.
They have also embraced renewable technologies and rainwater harvesting to take the farm ‘off grid’. Solar panels power the enormous rotary parlours' electricity requirement, and rainwater filtration is used to keep the panels clean for optimum voltaic production as well as provide farm drinking water.
Breeding and achieving a high-health herd is key in the farm's quest for sustainability. Cows are AI'd to Holstein Friesian and all heifers are served by selected Aberdeen Angus bulls. Due to the herd yield, the voluntary waiting period has been extended to 80 days before first service, and this has proven invaluable for conception rates and the reduction in the requirement to use hormonal treatments.
Sexed semen has been used to generate sufficient heifers for herd expansion, and they are now at their 500-cow capacity. The requirement for heifers has been reduced, leaving more to breed to beef. They use the latest genomic dairy sires from Alta, which are updated on a quarterly basis.
Herd health is a key focus in this herd. Johne’s screening is carried out quarterly via NMR’s HerdWise service using the milk sample collected at recording. They have also worked hard to reduce the use of injectable antibiotics for mastitis over the past few years.
Each cow is treated individually, with bacteriology performed on persistent cases to target treatment, alongside the use of NSAIDs/pain relief for each case.
The new parlour has had a significant impact on the reduction of mastitis cases. It proves that consistent and clean parlour routines (albeit robotic) make enormous headway in combating the spread of mastitis. Current antibiotic usage sits at 32.8mg/PCU.
Staff are also strongly encouraged to report any cases of lameness, with all cows mobility scored daily. Any cow scoring above a 0 is segregated from the herd, treated within 48 hours, given pain relief, and allowed to rest in a loose straw yard.
Preventative measures are key for the farm, and a foot trimmer is contracted every two weeks to trim around 40 cows, in particular those about to be dried off.
Lameness is rarely digital dermatitis and the new parlour has significantly reduced sole ulcers because they spend less time standing. A new foot dip has reduced foul.
The team at Worthy Farm is central to its success. Their core ethos is that all employees are happy working for the business. This is demonstrated in the loyalty and long service of the farm management team and their team development from the apprenticeship level.
Michael Eavis is still heavily involved in the business. John and Pam Taylor have been at Worthy Farm for 25 years and have been a big part of the herd’s progress. Working alongside them are five European dairy staff, one apprentice and two full-time general farm workers who have risen from being apprentices at Worthy Farm
As a direct benefit of the fame spotlight, Worthy Farm welcomes all visitors all year round and has embraced the opportunity to deliver education in agriculture through the conversion of the old milking parlour into a purpose-built education facility known as the Alice Rooms.
Worthy Farm is Michael Eavis’s legacy, a lifetime of work upheld by a phenomenally forward-thinking management team.
- Industry leaders in technology
- Central in educating consumers
- High herd health
- Worthy Reserve Cheddar made from the farm’s milk
- Putting sustainability at the heart of what they do
Farm Facts Worthy Farm
- Milking 500 Holstein Friesian cows
- 394ha farm
- Average yield: 12,000 litres at 4.06% fat and 3.42% protein
- All year-round calving
- SCC average:178,000cells/ml
- Milk buyer: Wyke Farms
- Routine Johne’s screening
- 5.2% mortality from birth to calving down heifers