County cows are cream of the crop

David and James Tomlinson.
David and James Tomlinson.
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Two farming families from Lancashire are taking on a music legend in the final of a national ‘cow idol’ competition.

Herds belonging to the Tomlinson family of Bilsborrow and Mark Verity of Clitheroe, have battled it out against 957 others to be named among the six finalists for this year’s Gold Cup competition.

Farmer Mark Verity

Farmer Mark Verity

Another finalist is veteran farmer Michael Eavis, founder of Glastonbury, who keeps over 300 cows on 65 hectares.

The Gold Cup is run by dairy information company NMR and the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers and reviews the whole dairy business, not just the animals.

Sheila Tomlinson, who runs Billsborrow Hall Farm with husband David and son James, said the competition was “the top award for diary farmers”.

The family have made it to the Gold Cup final for the second year running, coming runners up last time.

Sheila said: “It’s hugely excitng to be a finalist, and it’s a reward for all the hard work that goes into running the dairy. I think our success is down to attention-to-detail, efficiency and years of cow breeding experience.”

David said: “We want a balanced cow. We avoid breeding extreme types of cows an look for good production. Legs and feet are important with longevity and production our main aims.”

Mark Verity and family milk a mixed herd of Friesian, Jersey and Swedish Red Cross cows at Radholme Laund Farm in Whitewell, on land owned by the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mark uses high-tech computer programs to monitor his cows, has a team of nutritionists, breeding technicians and vets on hand, and has even installed 3.5 miles of astroturf and rubber matting to stop cows churning up the ground in high rainfall areas.

A new building erected 18 months ago has enabled herd numbers to increase to 350.

Mark said: “We’ve increased the herd organically, with our own replacements. We decided against purchasing heifers and cows to protect our herd health.”