Dairy delights and a cornucopia of
Cornish cattle

What’s wonderful about Willsbro

Buyers arrived from all over the UK, Europe and the USA for a very special auction hosted by the Wills family in Wadebridge. AF Member Wills Brothers Limited milk 1,700 cows to an average each of 14,467 litres per year. There are 1,600 young stock and they also farm 1,800 arable acres.

The open day and sale (last Friday and Saturday 22nd and 23rd September) was held at their immaculate Pawton Dairy site. The 367 lots from the famous Willsbro herd comprised 100 milkers, 250 youngstock and 17 embryo packages.

Willsbro released some of their best stock as a tribute following the untimely death of father and brother Anthony Wills last year. Excitement was heightened by the news last week that the Willsbro herd have been awarded the Holstein UK Premier Herd award for 2023.

Why AF went

On Friday, AF exhibited at the open day, held at the Royal Cornwall Showground just a stone’s throw from Pawton Dairy.

We had the chance to meet current Members and potential new Members and discuss how we can support them with their procurement needs. One existing Member is going to upgrade their mobile phones, review their life insurance and is planning a large fencing project next year which AF will support. They were also delighted to have saved £6k on sheep vaccines this year thanks to the AF Livestock team. We also spoke to a potential new Member in the South West who is milking 370 cows and would like AF to benchmark their bought-in feed.

Interested buyers, industry grandees, friends and family arrived in their droves to listen carefully to a series of interesting talks and seminars.

Early calf life nutrition

The first of the talks was given by Georgina Thomas of Trouw, sharing latest advice for giving calves the best start. In summary, she advises feeding at least 8 litres a day to support development and health. She said 65% of farms only feed 6 litres per day which is a maintenance ration but does not let the calf thrive. Feeding more milk gives a sustainable long-term return on the cost, through increased resilience and higher performance when the calf matures to be a dairy cow.

Capturing methane

Tom Taylor of Bennemann spoke about their method for capturing fugitive methane, which can then be refined and filtered to produce a vehicle grade gas as well as digestate and fertiliser.


Ben Nottage (brother of our AF Livestock specialist Alastair Nottage) of CowManager gave an instructive talk on the benefits of cow monitoring.

His CowManager system measures ear temperature combined with behaviour, resulting in more accurate and earlier alerts. Along with measurements of activity, rumination and eating time it gives herd managers actionable insights about their herd’s health, fertility, and nutrition.

Sale viewings

The open day was also an important opportunity for potential buyers to take a shuttle bus over to the dairy and view some of the sale lots.

The yard was adorned with some very smart marquees, and we were shown a wide cross-section of animals for sale the following day. The scale and professionalism of the operations is very impressive, and buyers were able to get into enclosures with the animals for a very close inspection.

Hundreds ready for the hammer

On a lovely sunny autumn day, the sale ring had been set up in a splendid marquee, and hundreds of bidders and watchers were seated on a terrace of Hesston bales.

Bidding ringside, on-line and by phone was brisk, as the beautifully presented animals on offer made their way into and around the ring. The top price on the day was achieved by Willsbro Lambda Baywatch, the hammer falling at a staggering 14,500 guineas. Second highest price on the day was Willsbro Lambda Roxy at 13,000 gns.

A final thank you

Both days were great testament to the Wills family, who were all involved in the organisation and delivery of this complex and demanding event.

Their hospitality was generous to a fault. Everyone was warmly welcomed, fed and watered throughout the two days and made to feel very welcome indeed.

Whether you are a dairy farmer or not, there’s a lot that AF Members can admire about how a fellow Member runs their business. Not only do they reach such high standards in how their farm is managed, but they take pleasure in running exemplary events and sharing what they do with so many.

Thank you to Robert, Melanie, Mathew and their families.

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