A crisis around his milk contract prompted Gordon Davies to launch into new business territory, a move which saved the farm and prompted an admirable succession plan. Danusia Osiowy finds out more about the journey of last year’s Dairy Farmer of the Year.

Gordon Davies and his family are rightly proud of their dairy farm business and the results they have collectively achieved after facing challenging times in the sector.

When the milk market was at one of its lowest points in 2015, the Davies family lost their contract after the decision was made from their buyer to retire.

The only option was to find a new market for their Channel Island milk and what followed changed the face of the business.

Gordon, who has farmed the pedigree Rivermead Jersey herd for 11 years with his wife Hazel on a Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) with Devon County Council, researched the trends around the dairy product and found  channel Island Milk was used in ethnic foods and for making Indian desserts and puddings.

They then formed a company with a cheese expert and began marketing their own milk in a factory in London and worked with other local farms in the area which were in the same predicament.


Gordon says: “Setting up the second dairy business has allowed the family to be in control of their own destiny. Diversifying has allowed us to purchase new equipment and invest in facilities and staff.”

Gordon, whose cows produce about two million litres of high quality milk and constituent each year, purchases a further 4-5m litres from Jersey milk producers across the south of England.

In total, with a collection pool from 17 farms, 14m litres of milk is purchased to produce a range of products, including paneer cheese, mozzarella, yoghurt, Indian desserts and ice cream to areas of London, Leicester and the South West.

His daily role sees Gordon lead on dairy logistics and transport with their tanker fleet, but with a strong circle of support surrounding him, strength lies in teamwork.

Hazel helps rear calves and eldest son Mark leads the management of the 280-head herd of Rivermead Jerseys, concentrating on the breeding and high health status of the herd and marketing any sale of cattle.

Second eldest son Kevin is a keen stockman and manages the staff and day-to-day running of the farm, along with crops and harvesting.

Daughter Emily is undertaking her final year at university, but heads up the calf rearing, with a particular interest in showing livestock and genetics.

Gordon says: “As a family we are all stockmen and every one of us has a passion for dairy cows and livestock. It is that passion which has progressed through to our grandchildren, along with the desire to have good cows and stock.

“I believe that what gives young people a good work ethic is being able to go to work and have fun. For us as a family and a business, what drives us is enjoying what we do and working with the people we do, be it staff, suppliers or customers.”

Animal health, welfare and performance take equal precedent at Westcott Farm, which comprises 101 hectares (250 acres).

A further 18ha (45 acres) is rented from the same landlord on a short-term tenancy and a further 22ha (55 acres) rented from a private landlord on a five-year FBT.

Noted for its success on the show circuit, the Rivermead herd is fully housed and co-run by stockman Richard Saxby.

Gordon says: “There is an emphasis on cow health and welfare. Examples of this include the herd’s strict Johne’s disease control strategy and our commitment to reducing antibiotic usage, with only 4 per cent of the herd receiving a dry cow tube at drying off.”

Attention to detail is all part of their focus on sustainability.

Gordon says: “The general public may well demand far higher welfare standards and accountability than they do presently. We, as farmers, need to be prepared for this and answerable to it.


“We need to ensure our business and our farm suppliers are accountable for their actions and present a good image to the public at all times.”

The subsequent impact of the change in direction of the business is considerable and is positively reflected across the entity.

Gordon says: “As the business grows and becomes more profitable it becomes easier for everyone to do their jobs more efficiently and productively.

“This encourages the whole team to achieve more and grow the business further.

“Our business has grown to a stage where we can focus more on cost control production and management methods, as we can employ good staff and concentrate on managing our business.

“In the early years it was extremely difficult to manage three of the five businesses when we were busy collecting and delivering milk or milking the cows. It is now easier to focus our time on managing the business,  investing in it and enjoy working in it.”

Gordon’s passion for the dairy industry is palpable, which was one of numerous reasons he captured the attention of judges and went on to win Dairy Farmer of the Year at last year’s British Farming Awards.

He says: “I am proud to be a part of an incredible industry which has only grown through adversity.

“It is a tremendous pleasure to work with people who have a passion, a smile on their face and want to improve. This may be to make a cow give more milk, run the transport logistics more efficiently or to look at the accounts and adopt a cost-saving measure.

“All of these things ultimately allow a business to become more productive, more efficient and more tenable. A massive part of our own business growth over the past few years has been down to those strong and reliable relationships with our customers.

“Working closely with our farm suppliers means we are able to pay a fair price for the products we need. As farmers ourselves we understand the needs of our milk suppliers and understand fully the pressures which come
with farming and I believe we need to take some responsibility for those suppliers.”


  • The dairy has upgraded the fleet of lorries to meet Euro 6 requirements
  • The business continually reassesses logistics to try and reduce food miles
  • Sets aside wilding areas in fields
  • Plants wildflowers in areas adjoining natural habitats, such as along the side of the motorway and railway line
  • Works to reduce flood water with the Environment Agency


  • Control costs and management methods
  • Present a good public image at all times
  • Prepare for rising energy and fuel costs
  • Produce high quality milk from healthy cows

A word from the sponsor

XThis award recognises those who are brave enough to challenge conventional thinking and bring fresh ideas to our industry.

As an innovator in feed, KW Feeds is looking forward to celebrating some of the most brilliant thinking, ideas and innovation in dairy farming today.

Richard Slack, head of commercial at KW Feeds, says:

“Our dairy industry never stands still. Great dairy farmers are constantly looking for new and better ways to improve performance, increase standards and lower emissions.

“As a trusted partner to some of Britain’s top performing dairy farms of all sizes, we are proud to recognise businesses which share our commitment to innovation and are brave enough to make change for the better.”