Farmer Focus: D & B McMiken, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway
Long-standing CIS customers, the McMiken family from Castle Douglas, were winners of the Scottish Dairy Farm of the Year at AgriScot 2019. The Ernespie pedigree Holstein herd is run by David McMiken his partner Rebecca and his father Brian and mother Jane.
David, who is third generation, returned to the family farm after studying Automotive Engineering at University. The focus was on growth and diversification and assisted by government and EU funding they built a new 290 dairy unit on a greenfield site featuring a 20/40 parlour, cubicles with mattresses plus new silage clamps and feed storage.
The herd is grazed by day in the summer months. The family own 300 acres and rent a further 200 acres of which 150 acres of cereal crops are grown and used as forage for the herd. David and a herdsman manage the herd on a daily basis with the help of one further employee and self-employed labour at peak periods. All their own heifers are reared and no animals are brought onto farm with genetic improvement being assisted by the selective purchase of embryos. They use purely sexed semen with the aim to not have any Holstein bulls on the farm.
The family have been milk recording with CIS for as long as David has known and is one of the key business tools to help make decisions on individual and overall herd performance. A bonus is paid from their milk buyer for fat and protein therefore milk recording is the only way to identify the individual cows and families that perform well in these areas to make breeding decisions. In addition to monthly milk recording the family use the Health Testing service and the herd are on Holstein Pedigree Complete.
Commenting on the Pedigree Complete Package, David says, “The package is competitively priced for the services we need. It includes milk recording, registration, fertility and health recording, classification and access to the cow mating tools WebMate and Bull Selector. The classification is fantastic as it adds value to the animals and I enjoy seeing the cow families develop.”
WebMate and Bull Selector are interactive web based tools to help dairy farmers. WebMate makes breeding decisions easier and helps determine mating recommendations for animals within the herd working well with type classification. Bull Selector helps dairy farmers find bulls on one of the longest established, unbiased and independent bull selection tools.
David is a member of the ARLA Farmers Board and believes that dairy farmers need to keep in touch with the end user and continually work to improve the dairy industry reputation. To engage with the public the family have for the last for years participated in Open Farm Sunday when up to 600 people visited to look around Ernespie Farm.
In 2019 the family took another key step in engaging the public and opened a new farm visitor centre, this includes a restaurant, animal barn, soft play area and outdoor facilities. Twenty-nine members of full and part time staff are employed with Rebecca taking responsibility for day to day running.
The Ernespie Farm Centre, built on the outskirts of the town, also has woodland walks and “meet the animal” demonstrations. The entire ethos to the centre is very much connected with the farm and farm life with the overall appearance and feel of the development designed to ensure visitors and children feel connected to the countryside.