Northumberland dairy farmer wins regional award for 'exemplifying highest standards' of management

Northumberland man Tom Neill has been named Northern Farmer’s Dairy Farmer of The Year.
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Tom, of Thornington Farm, Mindrum, received the honour at a recent awards ceremony held in Harrogate.

The awards, sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers, recognise excellence in farming practise throughout the north of England.

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Tom, who farms in a family partnership under the business name of R Neill & Sons said: “I’m delighted to receive the award on behalf of the Neill family and all the team at Thornington. It’s all very surreal at the moment. You don’t expect to win these awards.”

Tom Neill.Tom Neill.
Tom Neill.

The Neill family milk 320 British Friesian cows with the dairy business structured to capitalise on milk production and male Friesian calves being reared through the farm’s beef system.

The dairy herd is milked twice per day through a 28:28 fully-automated herringbone parlour with all cows electronically identified (EID) and recorded at every milking. The cows are subsequently fed to yield on an automatic-basis.

EID monitors and identifies any reduction in milk yield and milk quality, and flags-up any health concerns. Herd fertility; animal health and sire matings are also computer recorded.

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Over the past decade the farm business has undergone continual investment with a new cubicle facility constructed in 2012 incorporating under-floor slurry storage.

Feeding time for cows at Thornington Farm, Mindrum.Feeding time for cows at Thornington Farm, Mindrum.
Feeding time for cows at Thornington Farm, Mindrum.

The new state-of-the-art milking parlour was installed in 2015 and two new 2,000 tonne silage clamps were constructed in 2018.

The Neill family moved to Northumberland from Kilmarnock with a small herd of Ayrshire cows in 1954 and have since milked cows every day at Thornington Farm.

The business remains a family-run enterprise with Tom’s father and mother, George and Mary, resident on the farm, and Tom and younger brother David, involved in the daily-running of the operation.

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The business also incorporates a beef fattening system, an 1,800-ewe sheep-flock and employs six full-time staff members.

Mole Valley Farmers business manager north, Brian Dugdale, based at the company’s Alnwick store, said: “Congratulations to Tom on receiving this highly deserved award.

“The Neill family exemplify the highest standards of dairy management; record keeping, day-to-day animal husbandry and animal health and welfare.”