A fourth-generation Norfolk dairy farmer Jonathan Wyatt is top of the national league table for milk production.

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And, the family’s long-established herd of Dairy Shorthorns at Grange Farm, Snetterton, has improved performance on last year to head the latest annual results from National Milk Records.

Mr Wyatt said that the secret of his team’s success was treating all the cows in the 150-strong milking herd as “a princess.” As a result, average milk production of the Twells herd was boosted by 1,000 litres since last year and the dairy enterprise was now much more profitable.

Another Norfolk herd topped the NMR list for the Jersey breed. Su and Frank Mahon, who milk the 45-strong Upgate herd at Seething, near Loddon, retained their title ahead of rivals from Shropshire and the West Country.

And in north Norfolk, Stephen Temple, of Copys Green Farm, Wighton, near Wells, remained in the top 20 of national Holstein herds. His 100-cow herd had an average yield of 11,067kg at 4.26pc butterfat, which is a bonus for his wife’s Mrs Temple’s Cheese enterprise. The herd, including 37 heifers averaging 10,314kg, was 19th in the national league.

Norfolk’s only Dairy Shorthorn herd, which is also one of a handful in the county, has made great strides since about 120 delegates attending the World Shorthorn Conference visited the 400-acre farm.

On that afternoon in July 2010, host farmer Tim and Anne Wyatt and their son, Jonathan, spoke of their plans to boost herd performance.

Tim’s grandfather, Joseph Pearn brought cattle from his native Devon, hence the farm’s trading name, Pearn Wyatt & Son. But it was his son, Joe, who started the herd in 1936 with a wedding present of a dozen Shorthorn heifers.

As the latest generation to take the herd forward, Jonathan Wyatt said that the key had been improvements to “health, fertility and mobility of the cow. We’ve gone back to treating the cow like the princess she needs to be treated.

“We’ve got out of the Dairy Shorthorn the potential that we knew was there by doing things well, efficiently and properly. It is certainly paying dividends and we’ve turned the job around and are making some good money.

“It has led to a fair bit of extra work by everyone but it is worthwhile and we’ve very pleased with what we’re doing,” he added.

While dairying might have seemed slightly unfashionable, there was keen interest from a younger generation, said Mr Wyatt.

“It is good to be positive about this industry. We know it is a seven day a week job and some Sunday mornings are a little harder than others. It is all worthwhile when you can see the improvement.

The 126-strong herd averaged 8,589kg at 3.99pc fat and 3.25pc protein and his 31 heifers averaged 7,484kg, with slightly higher fat and protein.

In a year, the herd’s performance has improved by an average 1,000 litres. “We’re not feeding anything differently. We are just getting everything just so.”

He said that the attention to detail included milking the high-yielding group of cows at exactly 12-hour intervals, which had made a difference, and always treating the cows quietly.

“With dairying all the little things add up and if you get the little things right, it makes a difference.”

“The Shorthorn is an excellent grazing animal and we can obtain high yields from forage,” he added.

An investment in better forage storage cut costs and enabled him to generate an extra £70,000 of income last year. “We’ve produced better kept forage and have clearly seen the benefit of that.”

As he told delegates at the World Shorthorn Conference, it was essential to provide easy access to clean water for grazing cattle.

“It is just fine-tuning. We’ve invested in new water tanks and I’ve just ordered another five. I don’t want them any further than 175 metres away from a water trough when they’re out to grass.

“If they don’t drink water, they don’t produce milk, which is pretty fundamental.”

His cattle also like having access to warmer drinking water, especially during the winter months. “Our cows drink the water used to cool the milk which they love. When they come out of the parlour and before they go into the parlour, they do have the access to this water which is between body temperature and normal water temperature.”

As part of a long-term strategy, he has produced some very good calves from a Shorthorn X Holstein, which has produced some really great calves. “It makes a great milking animal in my view. They have the good traits of a Dairy Shorthorn – longevity, good feet and good fertility and they produce a fair drop of milk. I’ve got several doing more than 10,000 litres, with good fat and good protein.”

He has good team working alongside including cowman David Wenham, who joined about two years ago. “He is very quiet and very patient and loves the cows.

Peter Churchyard, of nearby Breckles, who spends about three hours a day looking after young stock and cleaning while relief milking duties were carried out by Ryan McPherson and Mike Toon.

michael.pollitt@archant.co.uk

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