How the arrival of one Holstein cow at family farm led to Great Yorkshire Show success 20 years later

Shawdale Mandelin Pamela 2 grazes serenely in the field next to the farmhouse.

Jennie Booth with her father David and their Holsteins

At 19 years of age, the grand old dame’s milk production days are over, but it was her arrival nearly two decades ago that paved the way for a North Yorkshire dairy farming family’s greatest achievements in the past two and a half years.

David, Margaret and their daughter Jennie Booth milk 150 pedigree Holsteins at Broom House Farm in Lothersdale where David said their Shawdale Holsteins herd reputation has been built on the Pamela family and other quality cow families.

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“We bought our first Pamela cow back in 1999. Since then we have registered 220 of our own homebred Pamela cows and currently have 50 of the Pamela family in our herd.”

Jennie Booth and her parents David and Margaret with the awards they have won.

It was a Pamela cow that brought about the Booths’ most successful show success in 2019 when Jennie said emotion took over at Carlisle and at Harrogate.

“We had taken Shawdale Atwood Pamela 119 as a junior three-year-old second calver to the UK Dairy Expo in March with no real expectations. We had thought that she might stand in the middle of a large class of 19. When she was pulled out in first place I cried my eyes out in the middle of the ring.

“In July 2019 she went on to become Holstein breed champion at the Great Yorkshire Show. It was the first time we have ever taken the supreme title and it was the one show where we had always wanted to win. We had come close a few times previously with exhibitor bred champion and reserve junior champion.”

Despite show cancellations over the 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions the Booths have continued to add to their awards haul. Earlier this year they were nominated as northern dairy farmer of the year in a farming publication and David was presented with the ultimate accolade in the Holstein world at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show.

David said that the Holstein Master Breeder award put the family in an exclusive club.

“Holstein UK has 4,500 members and only 10 farmers are presented with the award each year. All of the cows in your herd are awarded points for milk production and the number of daughters bred by them. We had been close previously, but we made it at last. We became master breeders last year but only received our award at Harrogate in July.”

David is a second-generation dairy farmer, son of Edward and Mabel Booth who had four sons who all farm in their own right. “We farm on top of the hill. It’s one of the highest dairy farms in Craven and we grow wheat at 1,175 feet above sea level.

“The previous farming partnership was split up in 1992 when we all went on our own. Margaret and I have four daughters and the eldest three – Helen, Diane and Claire – have all become chartered accountants and married dairy farmers. Jennie joined Margaret and I when she returned from her studies at Harper Adams.

“Our farm partnership is now myself, Margaret and Jennie. We have invested substantially in the farm over the past six years with a new slurry store, silage clamp and three Lely A4 robotic milkers. The farm runs to 200 acres owned and 40 acres rented.

"We have around 190 young stock in addition to the milkers. The young stock are all taken through to calving and we provide all of our own dairy replacements.”

Milk yield is one of the elements that brought about the Booths’ master breeder title and runs at 12,003 litres per cow per lactation with the highest yielders up at around 16,000.

Since the arrival of robotic milking the Booths’ dairy herd has been inside 24/7. Margaret said that prior to the robots they would only be on grass for a short period.

“We are over 1,100 feet above sea level and have eight months of winter. Even the four months when they could have been out was hit and miss when it would have been right. The past few weeks would have been too wet and a few weeks before it would have been too hot.

“The buildings are all properly ventilated with fans and curtains and the atmosphere inside is far more consistent than the weather we experience up here.”

David said they started with two robots and 18 months later took on a third.

Producing quality cows is more important than ever as David said it is not just about creating replacements for their own herd but also selling surplus stock into the commercial market.

“The Holstein did become too big at one time. There was a time when a classifier would come and if the cow wasn’t a certain good height it didn’t get a good score. Those days are long gone. They get penalised if they are too tall now.

“We want a modern-looking cow that doesn’t get too big but produces a lot of milk. That means having an excellent udder, feet and legs.

“Many pedigree breeders like us also sell surplus stock into the commercial market so we have to breed what the commercial farmer wants, which is something a bit smaller, more compact but still a good quantity of milk.”

The Booths didn’t show at Harrogate this year but will be making their first and only appearance in the show ring for 2021 at Kilnsey Show at the end of the month. David said they were a little apprehensive before the Great Yorkshire Show.

“We hadn’t wanted to risk it and we were quite surprised when it went ahead but we attended on the Tuesday and we certainly felt safe with all of the precautions that had been taken.

“When it comes to the big ones like Dairy Expo and the Great Yorkshire it all depends on whether we have something we think is good enough.

“We look at our cows in early summer when we are considering Harrogate, but when it comes to the local ones like Gargrave and Kilnsey we always like to show our support.”