The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is set to launch a new strategic dairy farm at the end of the month.

Dillington Farms near Ilminster, Somerset, will become one of the board’s strategic dairy farms on Wednesday, October 25, 2023.

The event will take place from 10:45a.m until 2:15p.m at the mixed farming business’s 870ha site.

The launch event will include:

  • A tour of the farm with an opportunity to find out more about operations, performance figures and goals for the farm over the next three years;
  • Insight on how the estate has incorporated mid-tier crops, grown on arable headlands, into the dairy and dry stock ration to achieve 3,700L of milk from forage;
  • A discussion on how the team use growth and performance data to select replacements, with an age of first calving of 23 months;
  • An exploration of how a three-way cross has led to high fertility and health cows while producing yields in excess of 10,800L/cow per year.

Dillington Farms

The in-hand farming enterprises of the Dillington estate are run by Ollie Blackburn with the help of Lou Thorner, the herd manager.

The herd based at Knott Oak Dairy currently comprises a dairy herd of around 350 cross-bred cows yielding approximately 10,800L/cow/year.

Around 130 replacement heifers are reared each year, with the remaining progeny being reared for beef in a separate enterprise.

The herd calves all year round and is fully housed – except for dry cows and second season heifers, which graze for five to six months of the year.

A purpose-built portal frame building accommodates all milking with its six robotic milkers and space for calving cows. Dry cows are housed in a separate cubicle shed when not grazing.

Calves are reared in group pens on automatic feeders before being moved to weaned pens and eventually into cubicles.

Grazing is provided from permanent pasture and parkland with a range of forages, including herbal leys and maize, being ensiled.

This farm focuses on home-grown feeds and is involved in an extensive mid-tier scheme, as well as renewable energy.

Strategic farms

AHDB’s strategic farms follow either an all-year-round or block calving system so participant farms can have real-world demonstrations and get ideas to make improvements on their farms.

“The farms are solid performers who openly and honestly share their experiences and performance figures at on-farm and virtual meetings,” AHDB said.

“You’ll hear about a range of topics from mastitis and managing calves to breeding and buildings.”

The Strategic Dairy Farm programme is funded by AHDB and the Betty Lawes Foundation.

AHDB is currently seeking more strategic farms. More information on becoming one can be found on the AHDB website.