Over 70 farmers and industry representatives attended the recent launch of the first Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Strategic Dairy Farm in Scotland.

The event was held at the host farm, Hillhead of Covington, which is run by William Baillie and his family.

Over the past 22 years, the Baillies have grown their business from 50 cows to 310 pedigree Holsteins, housed all-year-round, milked three times daily.

At the meeting, AHDB Dairy strategy and Scotland director, Paul Flanagan, described the aims of the new programme.

He said: “The Strategic Dairy Farm programme gives farmers the opportunity to compare their own businesses, both physically and financially, against performance measures from other farms and target areas to improve their own results.

“Through the programme, AHDB aims to harness the benefits of ‘farmer-to-farmer’ learning, improve dairy farmers’ business resilience and help them to remain competitive and sustainable over the long term.”


AHDB currently has six strategic dairy farms, all of which will spend the next three years benchmarking their performance against specific key performance indicators tailored to block and all-year-round calving systems.

Like the other host farmers, William has measured Hillhead’s performance and is planning on focusing on genetics and nutrition to boost their performance in specific areas.

He is particularly keen to see improvements in total feed cost and fixed costs as a proportion of income and genetic merit.

He said: “I’d like to see a reduction in our total feed costs which at the moment are just under 10p/L of milk produced, and ideally also increase litres from forage to 4,000.

“Fixed costs are also a challenge. At the moment we are sitting at 38% fixed costs as a proportion of income which is pretty much average, but if we could find a way to reduce that a little that would be great.”

William will be publicly sharing his journey through a series of meetings over the next three years to encourage other local farmers to make similar improvements to their own businesses.

South Ayrshire dairy farmer Scott Shearlaw, who also sits on the AHDB Dairy Board, said: “The strategic farm programme is a great platform for farmers to learn from the best operators.

“William Baillie and his family are running an excellent business and their involvement in the programme is a great opportunity for farmers to gain insight into how they achieve success and how they will improve their business further over the next three years.”