We get asked more and more about if we are Organic, how we farm, what medications we use so I thought I would write a bit of an overview for anyone who is interested and wants to use the information to make informed choices about choosing our cheese to eat.
We have around 400 dairy Lacaune Ewes including youngstock, more in the spring early summer. We lamb them in January/February and milk them till August/September where they naturally dry off. They have their first lamb when they are around two years old and normally have around 4-6 lactations.
The lambs stay with their mothers to receive colostrum then they are hand reared with milk replacement powder which due to the cost is not organic. We feed a mixture of home grown barley and bought in feed to rear the lambs, the female lambs are all put outside as soon as the weather permits and the males are all sold as fat lambs in the same way as non dairy lambs are sold to the meat industry.
We have tried various other methods of keeping the youngstock with their mothers for longer; leaving them with their mothers for six weeks then putting them into the milking flock, splitting them overnight but unfortunately we did not find it worked well for either the sheep, the youngstock, us or the cheese from an animal health, welfare or quality perspective. We are making a raw milk cheese so animal health is vital having said that we are always looking at new and better ways of farming and watch closely how those in the cow dairy industry are innovating such as the Ethical Dairy
We milk them primarily off grass, they come inside normally at the end of November when the weather turns cold and wet and they are fed silage which we make ourselves.
We do not add artificial fertilizers or spray our grass and crops with pesticides or herbicides and haven't done so for the last 5 years, we concentrate on growing good quality grass with high clover percentages which minimises bought in feed. In addition to minimise bought in feed we grow some barley and barley pea combicrop organically.
We feed them a parlour nut while they are getting milked twice a day and they will get their silage supplemented with a mineral lick/ home grown barley pea mix/ bought in feed where the silage does not meet their nutritional needs during peak lactation or pre-lambing.
We give the sheep routine vaccination Heptivac P pre lambing to prevent clostridial diseases, this is essential to ensure we have a low mortality rate of new born lambs, we also give them a footvax to prevent foot rot and we also vaccinate against enzootic abortion. We operate a High Health status closed flock and are MV accredited.
We do not use routine preventative antibiotics, antibiotics are only used where required for treatment such as mastitis we would rather treat the animals to get them healthy again as appose to euthanising.
The Goats are a bit different to the sheep by the way that they have different metabolic requirements, so they need more hard feed which we have to buy in (we are 1000ft above sea level) they also get parlour nuts while they are being milked. We feed the goats ad lib hay which we grow on the farm.
Goats do not have the protective lanolin in their coats that sheep do to protect them from the Scottish rain so they spend much more time inside on straw beds.
We try and put them out for periods during suitable weather and hope over time to build field shelters in the fields to facilitate the maximum time outside.
We rear the kids in the same way as the lambs, and follow the same health plan for the goats.