Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance

Farm on the Fell- Doing dairy differently

“We believe that farming should work with nature and not against it, which is why we farm as naturally as possible”

 

I went to meet Lisa to find out a little bit more about them and gain a better understanding of why they took the risk of moving from an intensive dairy farm to a small regenerative farm.

 

Lisa and Michael are third generation farmers who took over the farm back in 2013.  They were a high input, high output dairy farm contracted to supply Tesco. At their peak the herd consisted of 180 cows being milked 3 times a day, working all hours to produce “White water” .They were continually being pushed to cut costs and increase supply. This resulted in very high yielding cows, but huge vet bills and overworked Lisa and Michael. After researching other forms of farming they came across regenerative farming, booked themselves on courses, a visit to the ethical dairy in Scotland and the rest is history.

We were told by a few we were going “backwards” but we were also encouraged by others who spurred us on to go back to how it used to be done. Looking after the land and the soil and letting the animals mimic nature as much as possible.

Lisa said it was about adopting a more questioning approach. “ Just because it’s always been done this way- it doesn’t mean it’s right and actually it started to not make any sense”

Making the change took a lot of courage and faith. They let go of their existing 180 cow herd and started all over again. “The existing cows had been breed to produce as much milk as possible so they were not suitable for a low input system so we let them go and invested in new jersey cows” 

It was a huge decision and one that was made very quickly. “Literally we made the decision at the end of November and all the cows were sold by the end of December”

To have gone from 180 cows to 15 is a drastic move but the stress from Tesco is no longer there. Lisa explained to me that Tesco dictate a price that the farmers are paid for their milk. This price is based on the average financial farm costs from all Tesco suppliers in the UK, which Tesco have full access to. This does not take account of differences in costs depending on your location or size of farm. We were not fully in control of our business and each year a new agricultural manager would come in with new ideas and tell us we had to plant x amount of trees this year or sell our beef cattle through the Tesco beef scheme.

Now their small herd of dairy cows get to rear their own calves from birth up to about 5-6 months old. “The calves are slowly weaned from their mums, starting with overnight separation and gradually lengthening their time apart.  All calves whether male or female remain on farm, we do not sell any young stock.” They are only fed a diet of pasture and what they forage themselves and are fed no grain.  Milk from cows fed with 100% pasture diet has higher levels of omega 3 and higher vitamin and mineral levels particularly Vitamins A and E.

Lisa and Michael also rear native rare breed pigs. They are allowed to roam and forage which is a more traditional way over intensively farmed pig, thus creating a more flavoursome meat.

The other upside is their 3 children get to see more of them now. Their 10 year old is taking a keen interest in the farm now and even challenges his teachers at school around the more traditional “that’s how it’s done” approach!

 

What can you buy?

  • Vending shed and machines selling unhomogenised, gently pasteurised whole milk, changing flavours of milkshake. 

The glass bottles are £2 and the milk is from £1.20 to £2.00 . Remember that the bottles can be re used. 

  • Gelato
  • Pop up pork shop

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Big Blindhurst Farm, Bleasdale, Preston, United Kingdom

Hello@farmonthefell.co.uk

Open: Monday-Sunday 8am-8pm