By Debbie James

The Williams family have grown accustomed to collecting silverware for their pedigree herd of Ayrshires but although the showring is a valuable showcase for promoting their stock and genetics, their emphasis is firmly on providing commercial milk producers with a functional animal.

“Our breeding aim has always been to create a profitable and functional cow with a bit of extra style,’’ explains Philip Williams, the immediate past president of the Ayrshire Cattle Society.

The family farms at Home Farm, Leweston, a 125-acre farm near Haverfordwest which Philip and Sharon bought in 1991. Five years later they increased acreage by 85 acres after purchasing another farm and now rent a further 70 acres to run their youngstock.

The herd consists of 180 milkers and 120 followers with the cows grouped according to yield. Milk is sold to Glanbia Cheese Ltd.

In the winter the herd’s diet is a basic ration of grass silage and a cereal-based blend, topped up in the parlour according to yield.

The high yielders are also fed this ration in the evenings in the summer and graze during the day, while the lows are on a grass diet only throughout the summer.

In 1984 the family’s small herd of Holstein Friesians was upgraded and in 1999 Willhome Ayrshires was founded.

“Stuart was interested in showing and we didn’t have the extreme Holstein cow to compete in the show ring, so we opted for a different breed that suited our system,’’ Philip explains.

“Initially, we purchased many families from the Knutsford and Parcgwyn herds and more recently the entire Pam Ayrs herd. Over the years we have tried to purchase individuals from families that take our fancy.’’

Numbers of Ayrshires increased and they currently account for half the stock on the farm. As numbers have expanded, quality has never slipped with successive wins at local and national shows, not only within the breed but across the dairy section.

“It’s great to win your section and when numbers are reasonably small it means so much more to stand at the top of the dairy line,’’ says Philip.

The Williams family are renowned for their show successes but also for the publicity they give to the Ayrshire breed as very often there will be a large line up of immaculately turned-out Willhome cows and heifers at these shows.

In 2013 the herd won the National Society’s Haresfoot Vase after accumulating points from all national shows; the herd has since been runners up on two occasions.

A major accolade was achieved in 2017 when the family won the Dairy Pairs at the Royal Welsh Show with two homebred cows.

It is not only in the showring that the family has had success – they have also bred three bulls who have entered bull studs for semen collection and are proving very successful at Cattle Serves Ayr Ltd.

From their current herd mix, they restrict sires to a limited number of families to build up uniformity in the herd.

“Sires that we hold in high regard and will appear in many sire stacks are Cuthill Towers Autumn Gold, McCornick Nelson and Legace Ristourn,’’ says Philip.

Current sires in the flask include Willhome Challenger, Hunnington Famous, Hilltown Oblique and Cuthill Towers Majestic alongside their own stock bull, Willhome Pams Horizon.

“We are also very excited to see our youngstock join the milking herd with a large number sired by Cuthill Towers Barney Rubble Ex95. His first crop of daughters have calved well and all his stock certainly have a stamp,’’ says Philip.