12 Nov 2019

Farmer Focus: Firm of C & L Mair, Dumfries

In 1971, Townhead Farm was purchased by Colin Mair’s father and now Colin and his wife Loraine run the dairy business.  Despite losing their herd in 2001 to the Foot & Mouth disease, they restocked purchasing a small herd of Ayrshires and the rest of the herd are Holsteins.

The farm extends to 375 acres of Non LFA land and is used for grazing and conserving, with 200 acres cut in May and July and 140 acres in September, alongside 65 acres of cereals for home consumption.

In 2011, the dairy business was restructured with investment in a new 240 cubicle shed, straw calving yards, facilities for calves, new parlour and extra forage and slurry storage.  They also doubled the herd size which now comprises of 25% Ayrshires and the rest Holsteins, milked three times a day through their new 20/40 swing over herringbone parlour.  To reduce the environmental impact of the new dairy unit, the family also installed 50kw solar panels and a biomass boiler.

“Investing and focusing on the dairy business was the right move to make.  We had been growing a lot of crops, had a flock of breeding sheep and a very dated dairy system so we were at a point where we had to restructure to protect the future of the business.  The herd is run as one group, fed once a day – I am a great believer in keeping things simple so that everything runs smoothly and there is consistency in our day to day operation”, says Colin.

“We have now reached the herd size we set as a target and are self-sufficient with breeding our replacements.  All our heifers are served twice to sexed semen before being put to the Aberdeen Angus bull, and cows served generally once with sexed seman before having a straw of beef.  Bull calves are sold at 2-3 months old and our Aberdeen Angus x heifers are reared to about 12-14month before being sold on for breeding”, adds Colin.

The Mair family milk record monthly as part of the CIS Pedigree Complete Package which they have for the Ayrshires and Holsteins.

“The Pedigree Complete works really well as it simplifies everything and is cost-effective. In addition to the package we also use the health testing service including testing for Johne’s.  The highlight of the service for me is Type Classification and a great way to benchmark against different cow families.  I really enjoy classification days as it helps me decide which bulls to use on future breeding.  It is good to have a fresh set of eyes looking at the cows, and helps me assess each individual cow as I often spot something I have not even seen as each cow passes in front of me on classification day,” comments Colin.

The current classifications for the herd are 15EX and 74VG.  Average milk yield is 11, 242kg which has been helped by a good summer this year but also by a breeding management system focused on yields.  Their milk contract is with the Coop and supplied into Muller for processing, currently averaging Butterfat 3.83% and protein 3.19%.

Away from the day to day running of the farm, Colin is Chairman of the South West Holstein Club.  The family is also a member of the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) which operates throughout Scotland, working with volunteers to provide free farm visits and classroom talks for school children.  During the year, Townhead Farms welcomes children to visit and see the dairy farm in action, a rewarding and enjoyable occasion for all involved.