James Griffiths from Taynton Court Farm in Gloucestershire has picked up the prestigious accolade of Farm Educator of the Year at this year's Ceva Animal Welfare Awards.

He was presented with his prize by TV Presenter, Matt Baker, and retired veterinary surgeon, Chris Laurence MBE FRCVS, together with representatives from NADIS and R.A.B.I. which sponsor the awards.

The ceremony took place in The Mercian Suite at the Birmingham Conference & Events Centre on 3 April.

James's Award was given in recognition of his long-term dedication and hard work to enhance the health and welfare of his dairy herds and influence farmers throughout the UK to do the same.

About James

James is a second generation dairy farmer who has recently been joined on the farm by his son, Jack. They currently milk around 700 Holstein-Norwegian Red cross cows on an all year round calving system, largely housed indoors, plus a second group of around 300 Jerseys as a spring calving grazing block. Cow comfort and welfare is a high priority on the farm.

What James has done in the last 30 years has been widely watched and commonly copied by other farms, so the impact that he has had on dairy cow welfare nationally has been enormous. His farm has shown exemplary approaches to the following:

  • Lameness: The farm was one of the first to instigate frequent foot bathing for the control of digital dermatitis some 20 years ago which has become widely adopted by other farms in the UK, and has resulted in a huge reduction in lameness nationally. New freestall barns with bigger freestalls have been built on sand bedding to maximise lying time. Increased width of shed passageways minimise faecal contamination of feet. There is a routine foot trimming programme and strips of rubber matting are used to maximise cow comfort when eating. Although housed for a large part of the year, infectious lameness (DD or foul) on the farm is now rare, running at just 3.4 cases per 100 cows pa. Farm staff have been invited to present their cow lame protocols at the UK Dairy Event on more than one occasion.
  • Freestall barns: provide great ventilation and a clean environment which means that the incidence of respiratory disease and clinical mastitis is low.
  • Mastitis: James has installed a new state of the art rotary parlour to milk cows as efficiently as possible. Milkers are trained in best practice. Herd cell count is running at well under 150 and clinical mastitis levels are well below 30 cases per 100 cows. Due to improvements in mastitis management and environmental changes, less than 10 percent of cows get antibiotic dry cow therapy.
  • General welfare: The farm has invested heavily in cattle handling equipment to make procedures like TB testing and routine fertility visits less stressful. A modern hydraulic foot trimming crush is used for the treatment of lame cows and a recently installed 75 point rotary has reduced standing time and lameness.
  • Education: Staff motivation is a high priority and team members receive regular training. The farm is part of a group of other farms in the Gloucester area who are all involved in training; they visit each other’s farms annually to make a ‘welfare assessment’ of other members of the group.

Other ideas instigated on the farm include the use of acidification of milk in the control of Johnes, which has been the subject of studies by both Reading and Nottingham Universities. The farm welcomes visits from those with alternative views such as the RSPCA and CIWF and are constantly looking at new ways to improve the health and welfare of it's herd.

James said: "It was a surprise to win the Award. I'm immensely proud of my team. We're a large commercial dairy unit and the bigger units get a lot of stick, it's inferred that big is bad.

"The really good big units get a lot of bad press so it's nice to knock that back. There's a lot of really good dairy farmers that really care about their animals so why shouldn't we celebrate that".

The judges

The panel of judges was chaired by Chris Laurence MBE MRCVS, and included Tony Andrews, consultant and ex-director of RUMA, Andrew Biggs, veterinary surgeon and director at The Vale Veterinary Group in Devon and Andrew Davies, managing director of Synergy Farm Health.

Speaking at the ceremony awards judge Tony Andrews said: “The winner of the Farm Educator of the Year Award was James Griffiths. It may come as a surprise that a farmer won this category, but the judging panel considered that James was different because of his own free will, and using his own time, he was educating the public and agricultural colleagues.

"He was nominated by several different sectors of the farming industry who all indicated that he demonstrates and practises very high welfare standards in a commercial dairy farm".

Co-host of the awards Matt Baker said: “It is the second consecutive year that I have presented the Ceva Animal Welfare Awards and once again I am touched and humbled by the individuals and organisations who work tirelessly to enhance and promote animal welfare both in the UK and abroad to make a real difference to the lives of animals.”