Coton Wood Farm

Tony Ball
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About Coton Wood Farm

  • Joined the strategic dairy farm network in September 2018
  • 750-acre farm
  • All-year-round calving herd of 500 Holsteins
  • Annual average yield of 9,500 litres per cow
  • 8 Lely robots
  • Grazing lows, cut and carry, and total mixed ration to highs

Follow Coton Wood if you are interested in:

  • Improving your transition – increasing dry cow intakes and perfecting the ration
  • Calf and youngstock management
  • Developing the management of large herds using robotic milking
  • Making the most of forage  gaining an extra 1,000 litres from forage
  • Increasing our average litres per cow  achieving 10,000 litres per cow per year


Brothers, Michael and Tony Ball, farm in partnership, running a 500-strong herd plus followers across three sites and operate an all-year-round calving system. Five years ago, a major investment was made into robots to increase cow numbers from 200 to 500; the intention was to produce milk in the most efficient way possible, with an emphasis on cow comfort and welfare.

Our farm

Based in Derbyshire, the Balls currently produce 9,500 litres per cow per year on their 750-acre farm and are looking to optimise their system to reach 10,000 litres. They have a great team around them, comprising four full-time members of staff and one part-time.

Our herd

The herd comprises 500 all-year-round Holsteins averaging 9,500 litres at 3.88% fat and 3.35% protein through eight Lely robots. They run three groups: fresh cow, high yielders and low yielders. The low yielders graze from April to October, with the highs on a mix of cut and carry and total mixed ration.

All replacements are home-reared, calving in at an average of 25 months at an 18% replacement rate.

Our journey

The Balls are exploring every factor to hone the robotic dairying system, to efficiently and profitably produce milk, paying key attention to enhancing the health and welfare of the herd to directly improve the profitability of the business. By refining the management of the transition period, revising the nutrition and use/utilisation of forage within the diets and paying more attention to the monitoring and husbandry of youngstock, gains can be made to achieve their goals.

Our key performance figures

Coton Wood openly share their key performance indicators, so you can see how they perform against a number of technical and financial measures.

News and past events

  • Improving transition management on an all-year-round system (April 2021) Michael and Tony Ball, along with Mark Hall from Trouw Nutrition, explore top tips in transition management, how to assess transition and get cows off to the best start after calving
  • Calculating and reducing your carbon footprint (November 2020) Michael and Tony Ball, along with Becky Willson from The Farm Carbon Toolkit, explore how to measure and reduce your carbon footprint and make your farm more efficient
  • Lowering your purchased feed costs this winter (November 2020) Tony and Michael provide insight as to how reducing intervals between silage cuts has helped improve their milk from forage and reduce feed costs
  • Managing lockdown and preparing for the future (September 2020) Hannah Lilburn, AHDB knowledge exchange manager, visited Coton Wood to find out what they've been up to during lockdown, the challenges they’ve faced and what’s in store for the future (YouTube, 4 minutes)
  • Making the most out of robotic milking (January 2020) Michael runs through his rationale for opting for a robotic milking system and provides a farm update at this event
  • Putting the next generation first (September 2019) Tony and Michael are joined by Rob Drysdale, a vet, as he canters through ways to reduce illness in your herd
  • Maximising the potential of home-grown forage (April 2019) Tony and Michael were joined by Dr George Fisher to look at grassland management – no learning is available for this event
  • Optimising transition to maximise performance (December 2018) Dr Chris Hudson of Nottingham University Farms joins Michael and Tony as they look to improve transitions to drive increased production
  • Coton Wood Farm launch overview (September 2018) Tony and Michael Ball are joined by a host of farmers and industry people for the launch of Coton Wood Farm

Explore our other Strategic Dairy Farms

Tony Ball

Tony Ball

"Everyone that goes on a farm visit learns something. You get a lot of information from talking to other farmers, this is how we have gained a lot of our knowledge."

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